Air Pollution Associated With Changes in the Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that live in the gastrointestinal tract. According to a recent study, exposure to air pollution may change the structure and function of the gut microbiome.
For their study, the researchers used whole-genome sequencing to analyze fecal samples taken from 101 young adults who had participated in the Metabolic and Asthma Incidence Research study. The average age of the participants was 19.6 and all were overweight or obese. Data collected from air-monitoring stations located near the participants’ homes was used to calculate exposure to ozone, particulate matter, and nitrous oxide.
The researchers found that exposure to all three pollutants resulted in variances in the gut bacterial composition. Specifically, exposure to ozone accounted for 11% of the variation, particulate matter 4%, and nitrous oxide 4.4%.
Participants with higher exposure to ozone had less variety of bacteria in the gut. The researchers noted that lower bacterial diversity has been linked to increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. They also had higher levels of Bacteroides caecimuris, which has been associated with obesity. In total, the researchers identified 128 bacterial species that had been influenced by increased ozone exposure.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina and the University of Colorado. It was published online ahead of print on March 2, 2020 in the journal Environment International.