Spending time in close contact with others often means risking catching germs and getting sick. But being sociable may also help transmit ‘good’ microbes, finds a multi-institutional study of gut microbiomes in chimpanzees.
Researchers monitored changes in the gut microbes and social behavior of wild chimpanzees over eight years in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. They found that the number of bacteria species in a chimp’s GI tract goes up when the chimps are more gregarious.
The results help scientists better understand the factors that maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
The warm, soft folds of our intestines are home to hundreds of species of bacteria and other microbes that help break down food, synthesize vitamins, train the immune system and fight infections. Reduced gut microbial diversity in humans has been linked to obesity, diabetes, Crohn’s and other diseases.
“The more diverse people’s microbiomes are, the more resistant they seem to be to opportunistic infections,” said Andrew Moeller, research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, who co-authored the study published in the Jan. 15, 2016 issue of Science Advances.
Moeller and colleagues analyzed the bacterial DNA in droppings collected from 40 chimpanzees between 2000 and 2008.