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Doctors do poop tests to screen diabetes marker

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toi1Pushpa Narayan | TNN | Mar 2, 2016, 09.12 PM IST

Doctors are looking into poop samples to check if the bugs in the gut are putting Indians at greater risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Scientists at the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation will sequence the DNA of bacteria in the bowel from the poop that people excreted and see if they have enough of good bacteria or too much of bad bacteria that can trigger metabolic diseases. The research centre has tied up with the University of Copenhagen for the research, which had earlier found strong links between gut bacteria and diabetes. At least 1.5kg of bacteria, living in the human bodies, mostly inside the gut, play an active role beyond digesting food. They are involved in the development and functioning of immune system, neuronal systems and a wide range of metabolic functions, doctors said. On Wednesday, the Danish scientists who spearheaded this research, Dr Oluf B Pedersen, professor of molecular metabolism and metabolic genetics from University of Copenhagen, Denmark, told reporters that the bacterial DNA extracted from stool samples from 292 individuals showed 23% of Danish adults had a 40% reduction in the abundance of bacterial genes.

The DNA sequence of bugs was kind of representation of what is going on in the colon. “We found people with fewer and less diverse bacteria had a higher body fat percentage and elevated blood lipids. This is a significant correlation. We want to know if results are similar in Indians,” said Pedersen. His Indian counterparts have sequenced DNA from bugs of more than 450 stool samples – an equal number of diabetics, pre-diabetes and healthy people. “As of now our hypothesis is that Indians are at greater risk because we have less of the good bacteria that reduce diabetes risk and more of bad bacteria that increases risk,” said diabetologist Dr V Mohan, who heads the research foundation.

There is no adequate evidence to show the link in humans, but stool samples from the lean twin mice given to germ-free mice, make them remain lean and stool from the obese mice and give it to germ-free mice make them obese. “So we can’t rule out that bacteria, in this case, may cause obesity. It may be more than just an innocent bystander,” said Dr Pederson. As of now scientists have no explanation about the exact role of bacteria, but they say evidence show that obese individuals in their colon have a bacterial community that is more efficient at saving energy and so poop out lesser bacteria.

Later during a scientific oration on the bugs in human life, he said looking at the bugs was like moving into a tropical rainforest – there are trillions of them living inside the human body in anaerobic (no oxygen) environment. That means they are difficult to culture in the lab and there can’t be a quick fix solution to refill these bacteria. However, the key to increasing abundance of good bacteria is in the diet.

A study from France showed that when obese people were put on an energy-restricted diet for six weeks, those who were low in bacterial genes, they tended to normalise their abundance of bacterial genes. “That said, I am sure in ten years, we will have enough information to come up with pills packed multi-bacteria from the gut that will prevent or slow down obesity, diabetes and heart diseases,” he said.

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