BY: JESSICA BEUKER
The Yanomami people, who hail from the Amazon, live a semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle in the jungle. They have been living like this for thousands of years. According to iflscience, the tribe was first contacted in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 2008 that an unmapped village was spotted in Southern Venezuela. A team of researchers returned to the village within the year to collect mouth swabs, feces and forearm skin samples from 34 villagers ranging in ages from four to 50. Now, the microbial DNA of the villagers has been analyzed and the findings are absolutely astonishing.
A new study published in Science Advances has found that this isolated tribe of hunter-gatherers possesses the most diverse microbiome ever documented in humans. The microbiome of industrialized people is 40 per cent less diverse than the Yanomami. Even minimal exposure to Western medicines greatly decreased the diversity of the bacteria— some of which are known to be beneficial, like preventing kidney stones from forming.
The microbiome of Western industrialized people is 40 percent less diverse than the antibiotic-resistant genes of the Yanomami.
Despite never being exposed to commercial drugs, some of the Yanomami’s microbes carry genes that resist antibiotics. According to iflscience, it is suggested that these genes have come from an early exchange between human microbes and soil bacteria, which produce natural antibiotics.
The findings of the study, produced by a team led by Maria Dominguez-Bello, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and put out by EurekAlert!, show that westernization may be responsible for the loss of important bacterial diversity. The results suggest that decreased bacterial diversity, industrialized diets and modern antibiotics are linked to immunological and metabolic diseases such as obesity, asthma, allergies and diabetes. According to EurekAlert!, the diversity found in the feces and skin of the Yanomami is inversely proportional to the exposure of antibiotics and processed foods.
The majority of human microbiome studies have focused on Western populations. Investigating microbiomes that have been unexposed to processed diets and antibitoics, like the study of the Yanomami, may give us important information about the human microbiome and how it is changing in response to modern culture.