Secrets of gut microbiota may lead to a new understanding of disease

October 22, 2002

Brussels, 21 Oct 2002

The ageing process has many effects on the human body, but the change in composition of our intestinal flora is one of the more mysterious, and is the focus of a Commission funded project called Crownalife.

The three year study will examine and characterise the millions of mostly beneficial bacteria present in our digestive systems, then develop nutritional strategies for maintaining a healthy and balanced microbiota, particularly for the elderly.

The project's preliminary findings show that whilst almost 70 per cent of the microbes present in the guts of infants can be identified, in elderly people that figure drops to only eight per cent, and the number of different species is up to ten times higher. Researchers feel that this may play a role in the development of diseases, and hope that they can develop functional foods based on study of these unknown bacteria that will deliver significant health benefits.

The Crownalife project will receive 1.82 million euro in Commission funding under the quality of life section of the Fifth Framework Programme, and includes partners from Italy, France, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. The group will conduct studies in several different parts of Europe in order to find out whether there are any geographical trends to the types of microbes present in the gut.

The key development that led to the creation of the project was the improvement in analysis tools that enable the mapping of unknown areas of the body. The team will now apply these tools to define strategies to promote and maintain a balanced, beneficial microbiota.

For further information, please consult the following web address:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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