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Surprising Science

Gut Instinct

Research finds that only a few specific ‘friendly bacteria’ actually aid the immune system.

“Out of the trillions of ‘friendly’ bacteria — representing hundreds of species — that make our intestines their home, new evidence in mice suggests that it may be a very select few that shape our immune responses,” according to Science Daily. It says the research sheds new light on the relationship between intestinal microbes and the immune system, pointing to a remarkably “big role” for a class of microbes known as segmented filamentous bacteria. “It’s the first example of a commensal bacteria that can induce accumulation in the gut of a highly specific branch of the immune system,” according Dan Littman of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the New York University School of Medicine, who led the study. “We’re headed into an exciting new area, and we hope more pieces of how the microbial-host interaction contributes to health will begin to fall into place.”


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