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Turning the gut microbiome into a chat room

Altering how microbes talk to each other may prompt helpful changes in the balance of bacteria

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12:00pm, March 19, 2015

Altering how bacteria talk to each other can change the balance of microbes in the body, a new study suggests.

By butting in to bacterial conversations, friendly microbes may better resist the ravages of antibiotics, researchers report online March 19 in Cell Reports. Treating mice with antibiotics depleted the number of one major group of bacteria called Firmicutes naturally found in the gut. But boosting levels of a communication molecule slightly altered the microbial mix in the intestines, restoring a fraction of the Firmicutes population, the researchers found.

Manipulating bacterial communication might eventually help researchers reshape microbial mixes in people whose friendly bacteria have been discombobulated by antibiotics or disease. “It adds to the repertoire of tools that can be used,” says Willem M. de Vos, a microbiologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and

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