Hydrogenotrophic microbes which convert hydrogen into other substances may play a key role in the development of diseases like Colon Cancer or Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Research lead by Professor Rex Gaskin & Dr. Eugene Greenberg at the University of Illinois is looking to map Hydrogenotrophic(hydrogen consuming) microbes that while making up a small portion of the microbial ecosystem might play a big part in the development of diseases such as Colon Cancer or Inflammatory Bowel Diseases such as Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.

The research team took biopsies from healthy individuals & attempted to map the different types of hydrogen consuming microbes that lived within these biopsies. These microbes have been over looked in other microbial mapping studies due to the fact that they live under a thick mucosa layer & are not usually excreted within stool samples.

The researchers found that all of the subjects harbored three important classes of hydrogen-consuming microbes: methanogens, which convert hydrogen to methane; acetogens, which make acetate from carbon dioxide and hydrogen; and sulfate-reducing bacteria, which expel hydrogen sulfide gas.

The implications that these microbes have on total digestive system health is not yet completely known, but a 2006 study which was also lead by Rex Gaskin suggested that the hydrogen sulfide released by sulfate-reducing bacteria does cause damage to DNA which could lead to the development of Colon Cancer. Additionally Gaskin believes that microbes & where they congregate within the gut can play a part in the development & recurrance of disease such as Crohn’s Disease.

“When you see Crohn’s disease you see an area of involvement, then it’s normal and then you see another area of involvement. And if you do surgery and remove the disease, the disease almost always recurs from the point of removal because – we believe – it’s been reseeded with microbes.”

While this research is still in it’s infancy it is great to see more interest in identifying all the microbial life within the digestive system & the impact those microbes have on our bodies. These studies shed more light on why therapies like  fecal transplantation or helminthic therapy work.

Source: Researchers map minority microbes in the colon