Analyzing gut bacteria more accurately to make diagnosis

The microorganisms in our intestines could be linked to certain diseases such as Alzheimer's and diabetes. Researchers from the AD-gut consortium have developed a novel method—combining optical DNA mapping and statistics—for accurately distinguishing and rapidly identifying the various species in the microbiota. Is there a link between the bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract and diseases such as Alzheimer's and diabetes? Recent scientific advances suggest that this is an area that should be explored. To better explore this possibility, teams led by Prof. Johan Hofkens (KU Leuven), Prof. Aleksandra Radenovic (EPFL / school of Engineering), Prof. Dimitri Van De Ville (EPFL / School of Engineering) and Prof. Theo Lasser (EPFL / School of Engineering) joined forces to develop a robust statistical framework that would enable the use of DNA mapping in microbiome-based diagnostics. The related research paper has been published in NAR Genomics and Bioinformatics. The researchers showed that their method was effective by correctly identifying in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease, single DNA strands coming from a mixture of two different chromosomes of Vibrio Harveyi, a known gut bacterium. It was a complex challenge. "Real-life samples contain millions of different bacterial species, and we are usually only interested in a dozen of them," explains Raffaele Vitale, one of the study's co-authors. "With our method, we considerably accelerate microbiome analysis in settings where single base level analysis is not required or would not be cost efficient."

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