The idea that your social environment can lead to the onset of bacteria and germ related diseases has been common knowledge for a while. But now, scientists have discovered that gut bacteria diversity may be influenced by social interactions in a beneficial way as well.
The research that pointed out this phenomenon was conducted on chimpanzees, 40 of them to be exact. By studying their microbiome diversity in two states, while being isolated or in a group, researchers have discovered that the variety and population of gut bacteria increases when the primate is involved in regular social interactions.
The bacteria that get passed on from one subject to another are almost completely benign, in some cases even helping with subjects’ general health. This is most likely due to the fact that by having a limited variety in gut microbes, you immune system gets gradually weakened.
Up to this point, the study of the system of bacteria and microbes present in a patient’s body, called microbiome, was focused only on identifying the distinct type of micro-organisms. But due to the results of the chimpanzee-based research, scientists have started to think that microbiomes are not actually limited to an individual. These environments function more like a collective community instead of being completely isolated from one person to another.
But one has to bear in mind that us humans have different social behaviors in comparison to chimps. Because chimpanzees are in a more direct contact with fecal matter, gut bacteria benefit from a higher degree of transmission. Although primate stool samples collected showed that when regular social interactions are present, microbiomes tend to be similar from subject to subject, in humans, this similarity can only be achieved only to a certain extent.
Unsurprisingly so, given the fact that human society views bacteria and microbe transmission as something that can pose a serious threat to our general health. Despite that, if microbiomes get studied further in order to identify the bacteria which directly benefit our immune systems, that mentality could suffer from slight alterations.
The study of the variety of bacteria present in our gut could be helped by the fact that chimpanzees have more or less a similar diversity when it comes to gut microbiomes. But this gets somewhat halted by the plethora of different species of microbes, almost reaching the 120,000 mark.
If further studies made on the idea that gut bacteria diversity may be influenced by social interactions prove this concept to be completely correct, scientists may proceed to the next step in the analysis, focusing on human patients. Only time will tell how this result will influence the medical communities around the globe, as well as our general belief in regards to bacteria transmission.