Vetagro Journal Club, #7

When we think about health, we often make the connection with the microbiome, the genetic heritage of the microbiota that lives as commensal inhabitant of the skin and mucosa of humans and animals. Recent findings demonstrated that 99% of the human genes are microbiome-derived, and the vast majority of the microbiome is harbored in the gastrointestinal tract. These genes are essential for metabolic functions, encoding for enzymes and useful molecules, immune system stimulation, and toxins elimination. In this optic, we can think about the microbiome as an additional essential endocrine organ and we can say as well that “take care of your microbiome, and it will take care of you”!

As we all agree that the microbiome is important for the general health of the subject, microbiome communities are highly individualized, depending on the environment, nutrition and diet, pharmacological and antibiotic treatments, etc., and there is not one microbiome that fits all. Currently, we know that food is an important determinant of microbiome composition with some foods having a positive outcome (ie fiber-rich foods) and some others (especially those rich in saturated fatty acids) may be detrimental. At the same time, probiotics can have positive effects on the microbiome status but the results are highly dependent on host-related factors, such as the initial composition of the microbial communities, or the characteristics of the probiotic strains itself and the administration of such products without an accurate analysis of the specific situation can be a waste of time and money. Although we are all aware of the importance of nutrition and microbiome crosstalk, human lifestyles are too different depending on the geographical region, culture, and economic status to hypothesize a unique model or to address a particular food category as the best one for the microbiome balance. What we know now is that genetic and environmental factors only account for 30% of interindividual variability in microbiome composition, leaving the majority of it still unexplained. Nevertheless, science is studying nutrigenetics, nutrigenomics, and metagenomics to introduce the use of precision nutrition to improve the human microbiome and, consequently, human health. But it is still a long way to go.

On the other hand, livestock has far more chances of being farmed in standard conditions, at least within the same geographical region/economic area. Even for the animals, scientific research about the microbiota and microbiome, and the relation between certain microbiota communities balance and the animal health status is still at the beginning. Nevertheless, the possibility to standardize farming practices as much as possible opens the door to the use of precision nutrition to address the animal microbiome and to make livestock healthier, with excellent digestion and absorption of nutrients (with reduction of wastes and improved livestock sustainability), as well as with a reactive and effective immune system activity. For example, recent findings indicated that some feed additives, such as botanicals, have a positive impact on the reactivity of the immune system of broiler chickens as well as a modulatory effect on their gut microflora. Standardized conditions make finding and understanding results easier than in the large-scale study of human communities.

The microbiome is a crucial part of human and animal health: every day we are more informed and sure that a good balance among different microorganisms in gut microflora leads to a health improvement. Precise nutrition for humans is nowadays difficult to put into action, but animals can be a good starting point. Why not grasp this opportunity to improve health, performance, sustainability, and incomes?

Establishing What Constitutes a Healthy Human Gut Microbiome: State of the Science, Regulatory Considerations, and Future Directions (here)

Find out more here: Vetagro Student Corner | Microbiome by Giulia

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