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How to tell good gut microbes from bad

Researchers sort out influences of specific bacteria on health

A new method may make it easier to ferret out the health impacts of different bacteria in the intestines. The work could lead to new probiotics, microorganisms that may provide health benefits when consumed, and has already identified a handful of microbes that may contribute to obesity. 

Scientists have discovered many links between human health and particular mixes of microbes that live in and on the body. But it hasn’t been easy to pin a health effect on one or a few of the hundreds of different types of intestinal microbes.

“We’ve done this piecemeal,” says Sarkis Mazmanian, a Caltech microbiologist. “It’s slow and cumbersome to do this one organism at a time.” That approach also requires researchers to make educated guesses about which organisms to test.

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