The human microbiome, the vast collection of microbes that colonize the surfaces that cover many of our organs and our skin, is a fundamental pillar to maintain our general health. At any time, they inhabit between 500 and 1,000 different species of bacteria, which together contain many more genes than our human genome. Researchers have also realized that there are not two people who share the same microbiome, and that the composition of an individual microbiome can change with diet, lifestyle, treatment with antibiotics and other medications, and other factors. While several links have been found between individual microbiomes and diseases as diverse as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, cancer and autism, it is not known whether the opposite could also be true if the microbiome actively improves health and the physical performance.

Now, a highly collaborative team of researchers led by Scheiman and Church at the Wyss Institute and HMS, and Aleksandar Kostic at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston has identified a specific group of bacteria, called Veillonella, that is enriched in the intestinal microbiome of Boston. Marathon runners after completing the race 26.2 miles and in an independent group of 87 elite athletes and Olympians after the competitions. Veillonella bacteria isolated from marathon athletes and administered to mice increased the performance of animals in laboratory tests by 13% compared to control bacteria.

“We were able to show that the increase in performance driven by Veillonella was due to the ability of bacteria to break down lactate, a metabolite that is known to accumulate with intense and prolonged exercise, and that produces propionate, a chain fatty acid. short (SCFA), which in turn, increases the body’s resistance to physical exercise, “said co-author Kostic, Ph.D., who is an Assistant Professor of Microbiology at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and who follows computational approaches and Experimental studies aimed at better understanding the relationship between the human microbiome and metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

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