The microbiome of uncontacted Amerindians

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Science Advances  17 Apr 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 3, e1500183
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500183

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Most studies of the human microbiome have focused on westernized people with life-style practices that decrease microbial survival and transmission, or on traditional societies that are currently in transition to westernization. We characterize the fecal, oral, and skin bacterial microbiome and resistome of members of an isolated Yanomami Amerindian village with no documented previous contact with Western people. These Yanomami harbor a microbiome with the highest diversity of bacteria and genetic functions ever reported in a human group. Despite their isolation, presumably for >11,000 years since their ancestors arrived in South America, and no known exposure to antibiotics, they harbor bacteria that carry functional antibiotic resistance (AR) genes, including those that confer resistance to synthetic antibiotics and are syntenic with mobilization elements. These results suggest that westernization significantly affects human microbiome diversity and that functional AR genes appear to be a feature of the human microbiome even in the absence of exposure to commercial antibiotics. AR genes are likely poised for mobilization and enrichment upon exposure to pharmacological levels of antibiotics. Our findings emphasize the need for extensive characterization of the function of the microbiome and resistome in remote nonwesternized populations before globalization of modern practices affects potentially beneficial bacteria harbored in the human body.

  • Antibiotic
  • Amerindian
  • Microbiome
  • Resistome
  • Westernization

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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