Living with someone changes your microbiome, new research shows

Living with someone changes your microbiome, new research shows

For the first time, research has shown that bacteria of the microbiome are transmitted between many individuals, not just infants and their mothers, in ways that can’t be explained by having the same diet or geography.

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Some roommate frustration can be expected, whether it’s a sink piled high with crusty dishes or crumbs where a clean tabletop should be. Now, research suggests a less familiar issue: person-to-person transmission of shared bacterial strains in our gut and oral microbiomes. For the first time, the lab of Nicola Segata, a professor of genetics and computational biology at the University of Trento, located in Italy, has shown that bacteria of the microbiome are transmitted between many individuals, not just infants and their mothers, in ways that can’t be explained by their shared diet or geography.

It’s a finding with wide-ranging implications, yet frustratingly few predictable outcomes. Our microbiomes are an ever-growing and changing collection of helpful and harmful bacteria that we begin to accumulate the moment we’re born, but experts are still struggling to unravel why and how bacteria from one person’s gut or mouth become established in another person’s microbiome, as opposed to simply passing through.

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Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a science journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Vice, Neo.Life, The Scientist, Willamette Week and many other outlets.
A new oral vaccine could prevent urinary tract infections for years

Urinary tract infections account for more than 8 million trips to the doctor each year.

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Few things are more painful than a urinary tract infection (UTI). Common in men and women, these infections account for more than 8 million trips to the doctor each year and can cause an array of uncomfortable symptoms, from a burning feeling during urination to fever, vomiting, and chills. For an unlucky few, UTIs can be chronic—meaning that, despite treatment, they just keep coming back.

But new research, presented at the European Association of Urology (EAU) Congress in Paris this week, brings some hope to people who suffer from UTIs.

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Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.

MILESTONE: Doctors have transplanted a pig organ into a human for the first time in history

A surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital prepares a pig organ for transplant.

Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital made history last week when they successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human patient for the first time ever.

The recipient was a 62-year-old man named Richard Slayman who had been living with end-stage kidney disease caused by diabetes. While Slayman had received a kidney transplant in 2018 from a human donor, his diabetes ultimately caused the kidney to fail less than five years after the transplant. Slayman had undergone dialysis ever since—a procedure that uses an artificial kidney to remove waste products from a person’s blood when the kidneys are unable to—but the dialysis frequently caused blood clots and other complications that landed him in the hospital multiple times.

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Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.