Like Gut Bacteria, Our Gut Fungi May Play Role In Weight Gain

Several studies have indicated gut bacteria are influential in the onset of obesity. Now, researchers are also implicating intestinal fungi.

Though a small part of our body’s microbiome (microorganisms), fungi are potential reservoirs for pathogens, and organisms necessary for optimal microbiome functioning.

“We really need to be looking at all the microbes and how they are interacting with each other to get a full picture of what the microbiome structure and function is in a given individual,” said lead investigator Cheryl Gale, M.D., associate professor at the University of Minnesota (UM).

In a new UM study, mice on a high-fat diet showed significant differences in bacterial and fungal populations compared to mice on a standard diet. Predicted groups of microbes related to metabolism were substantially diminished by the increased fat intake. Further, a co-abundance of specific fungi and bacteria in the normal-diet mice was decreased in the high-fat group.

“Not only are we affecting the community of fungi with dietary change, but we also see that relationships between fungi and bacteria are changing,” says Dr. Gale. “These kingdoms are not in isolation. If one changes, it is going to impact the community structure and maybe the functional structure of other kingdoms as well. I think that is where the microbiome field is moving.”

This research supports the inclusion of fungal data in all intestinal microbiome studies. However, this presents a challenge for researchers since methods for sequencing fungi are not on par with those for bacteria, and fungi databases are currently insufficient.

“We haven't developed the databases of sequences for fungi like we have for bacteria,” said Dr. Gale. “The databases aren't as rich, so when you sequence the fungal community, you often get sequences that don't match to anything.”

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Tony Alter

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