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How emigrating to another country can change our microbiome

| | November 13, 2018

When people immigrate to the United States, their microbiomes quickly transition to a U.S.-associated microbiome, according to research published [November 1] in the journal Cell. Changes to their internal population of bacteria start to occur within nine months, and the longer someone lives in the U.S., the closer their microbiome is to that of a U.S.-born person.

Minnesota is home to Hmong and Karen refugees, minority ethnic groups from Southeast Asia. The research team collected stool samples from over 500 Hmong and Karen individuals, including people living in Thailand, who represented the pre-immigration cohort, people who recently moved to the U.S., and second-generation immigrants. They also took samples from 36 U.S.-born people with European-American ancestry to serve as a control.

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Analysis of the stool samples showed that levels of Prevotella bacteria in the immigrant microbiomes went down, and levels of the western-associated Bacteroides bacteria went up. The ratio tipped more and more in favor of Bacteroides from the first- to second-generation of immigrants.

A different microbiome doesn’t necessarily mean a worse one, but their microbiomes didn’t just change—the mixture of bacteria that inhabited their guts became significantly less diverse.

Understanding the factors that transform the immigrant microbiome so quickly might help researchers develop ways to stave off that transition, particularly if future work shows that a changed microbiome does, in fact, have a negative health effects.

Read full, original post: Immigrants to the U.S. Rapidly Gain a New Microbiome

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