Mice are poor stand-ins for human microbiota research?

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Yes and No. We have learned at this year’s Keystone Symposium on Gut Microbiota that microbes have adapted to specific mammalian hosts and undoubtedly vice versa. For instance Jens Walter has shown that specific strains of Lactobaccilus reuteri are adapted to specific hosts. This adaptation is expected to lead to a variety of important physiological differences between mammals as divergent as mice and humans. Other important anatomic and physiologic differences also exist. A very recent article by Nguyen et al. in Disease Models and Mechanisms is timely contribution to this question.

Title:   How informative is the mouse for human gut microbiota research?

From the abstract: “The microbiota of the human gut is gaining broad attention owing to its association with a wide range of diseases, ranging from metabolic disorders (e.g. obesity and type 2 diabetes) to autoimmune diseases (such as inflammatory bowel disease and type 1 diabetes), cancer and even neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. autism). Having been increasingly used in biomedical research, mice have become the model of choice for most studies in this emerging field. Mouse models allow perturbations in gut microbiota to be studied in a controlled experimental setup, and thus help in assessing causality of the complex host-microbiota interactions and in developing mechanistic hypotheses. However, pitfalls should be considered when translating gut microbiome research results from mouse models to humans. In this Special Article, we discuss the intrinsic similarities and differences that exist between the two systems, and compare the human and murine core gut microbiota based on a meta-analysis of currently available datasets.”
Full text link: Nguyen et al. Dis Model Mech. 2015 Jan; 8(1): 1–16.

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