700-Year-Old Poop Tracks History of Human Gut Microbes

first_imgPetrified human feces from the 14th century have revealed the earliest evidence of an arms race in the human gut. Our intestinal bacteria, it seems, were employing antibiotics long before people developed drugs like penicillin.The bacteria that live in your intestines are territorial little suckers. When new microbes arrive, the natives fight them off with antibiotics. The invaders respond by developing immunity to these compounds. So the native bacteria in your gut—known as the microbiome—develop ever stronger antibiotics. This war has likely been waging in the human intestine for eons, but scientists have had little evidence of its history.That’s now changed, thanks to a surprise find in Namur, Belgium. An urban development project there unearthed some historic bowel movements in 1996. Excavation under a town square revealed latrines from the Middle Ages buried 4 meters deep. Each held sealed barrels of human waste that had not been aired out in nearly 700 years.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Paleomicrobiologists carefully extracted the fossilized feces—known as coprolites (they look a bit like poop-shaped rocks)—from the barrels to prevent modern bacteria and viruses from contaminating the medieval microbes. A preserved fecal deposit eventually plopped into the virology lab of Christelle Desnues at the Research Unit on Infectious and Emerging Tropical Diseases (URMITE) in Marseille, France.Her team bored into the coprolite, extracting a piece of its core approximately the weight of a nickel. Electron microscopy exposed viruslike structures peppered throughout the samples. When the team sequenced the genomes of all the viruses in the ancient poop, they discovered that most of them were bacteria-loving viruses called bacteriophages, or “phages” for short. Phages are the cargo ships of the bacterial world, picking up genes from one bacterium and transferring them to another. Occasionally, this process instills their bacterial hosts with an evolutionary advantage. Indeed, researchers have observed modern-day phages shipping antibiotic resistance genes between bacteria that cause infections, thus increasing their virulence.Desnues and her team discovered that the phage genomes from the coprolite were packed with antibiotic resistance genes, as they report online this month in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. This supports that bacteriophages are an ancient reservoir of resistance genes in the gut, dating back as far as the Middle Ages, Desnues says.A broader diversity of antibiotic resistance genes were observed in the coprolite. “It was surprising that the ancient stool had more [antibiotic resistance] genes than modern stool samples,” says Jeremy Barr, a microbiologist at San Diego State University in California who was not involved with the study. If this coprolite specimen is representative of the time period, then the reduction in these genes over time may reflect that modern sanitation in food or water supplies have weakened the defenses of gut bacteria, he says.Interestingly, Desnues’s team’s research reveals that the phages also carried metabolic genes that equip host bacteria with the ability to process fats and amino acids, which may be the traits that made them so useful to our intestines in the first place. Members of the human microbiome help us digest food, temper inflammation, and may fight obesity—so their resistance to antibiotics actually benefits us.“It’s as if we need these phages as part of our microbiome,” says Vincent Racaniello, a microbiologist at Columbia University who was not involved in the research. He says that though the species of gut phages have changed over time, the key genes that they swap have remained the same. “We evolved as humans to house [gut phages] for the functions they provide—that’s the coolest part.”last_img read more

From Ageism to Age Pride

first_imgby, Kyrié Carpenter, Managing EditorTweetShare22ShareEmail22 SharesAshton Applewhite stands before a room of dozens of people expecting to hear the same ‘ol spiel. Instead, she poses a question: “What is every person in this room going to become?”When no one offers an answer she continues. “Older. The prospect has an awful lot of us scared stiff.” A renewed focus on ageism—discrimination on the basis of age—marked the 21st annual Pioneer Network conference, which recently took place in Denver. Ashton’s question kicked off an all-day intensive workshop called From Awareness to Advocacy: From Ageism to Age Pride. She was joined by anti-ageism advocates Mel Coppola, Sister Imelda, and Carmen Bowmen. “We’re planning to launch an initiative in 2019 that has international, national, state and community impact,” said Pioneer Network CEO Penny Cook. “Ageism is one part of our focus to change the lens of aging.” Penny continued that in order to change the culture of caring for our elders, we need to change the way aging is viewed in our society. More than 700 people attended the conference, a potent mix of newcomers and veterans of the movement. From Awareness to Advocacy: From Ageism to Age Pride was a highlight. “The ageism session was fantastic,” one attendee said. “I learned as much from other participants as I did from the guides. They did a great job at making it interactive.” Ashton shifted consciousness by first turning the concept of successful aging on its head. Together we explored how damaging it can be to set the measure anywhere other than waking up in the morning for success. When we set markers for success that are not achievable, we create shame and markets for anti-aging products. Recognizing the gifts that aging has to give is paramount. And the first step to being able to do that is dismantling the ageism at the root of the negative perceptions. “I’m not saying that getting older is easy,” Ashton went on to explain. “We’re all worried about some aspect of it, whether of running out of money, or getting sick, or ending up alone— and those fears are legitimate and real. But it never dawns on most of us that the experience of reaching old age — or middle age, or even aging past youth — can be better or worse depending on the culture in which it takes place.”During the intensive, lots of space was given to the wisdom in the room. Each of us had a chance to draw on and share what we have experienced. The personal experiences were varied and awe-inspiring. The eclectic audience included past and present CEOs of the Eden Alternative Chris Perna and Jill Vitale-Aussem, several of Pioneer Network’s founders, elders living in long-term care, long-term care staff, surveyors, ombudsman, academics such as Wendy Lustbader, culture change veterans like Laura Beck, a group of nuns, new blood such as Jenna Dion, continuing care leadership such as Amy Gorley, health care C-suites like Tammy Marshall and more. In addition to Ashton’s talk about ageism, Carmen Bowmen illuminated the importance of moving from fake to real in long-term care. Sister Imelda and Mel Coppola led the group in spirited discussions. Throughout the day ideas were galvanized into seeds of change to take home. For decades, there has been a “culture change movement” led by Pioneer Network, ChangingAging, The Eden Alternative, and others. Ageism is at the root of the change we’re all looking for. Ageism is one of, if not the, biggest obstacles to creating a culture which reduces the unnecessary suffering we currently pile on the experience of aging through prejudice. “It doesn’t make much sense to go through life pretending that something that’s happening to us is never going to happen to us,” Ashton pointed out. “But that’s how most of us act when it comes to getting older. Ageism feeds on that denial: our reluctance to acknowledge that we are aging—all of us, right now. If there’s a lot more road behind you than ahead, you might even be old.”Awareness about ageism is the first step towards fighting it. But change happens through action, both internal and external. We need to check our own internal biases and work to shift them. (Curious how age biased you are? Take this test created by Harvard’s Project Implicit) We need actionable tools and resources to bring about change in our communities. Ashton has long dreamed of a clearinghouse where people can find the resources they need to dismantle ageism. Near the end of the day, she was able to share that this dream had become a reality, OldSchool.info. I was honored to be able to announce the project we have been working on with fellow age activist Ryan Backer.“Movements need people. (That would be you),” Ashton wrote in her blog post announcing OldSchool.info. “Movements need purpose (To make the world a better place in which to grow old. And, while we’re at it, to be young, or have a disability, or be queer or non-rich or non-white.) And movements need tools.” In the weeks since the conference, actionable ideas sparked in that room have already taken root. For example, during the workshop, Jill Vitale-Aussem shared a story. That story became a blog post. The blog post inspired Pioneer Network, The Eden Alternative, and LeadingAge to collaborate on a letter that acts as an agent to promote change. I can’t wait to see the stories that come from this initiative. There is a spirit now of coming together around ageism.“Let’s not be afraid of living as we become olders,” one participant said. “Ashton put this message so simply that we should all show our age pride. Lived it, earned it – been there done that and now enjoying this. The ‘Age Cooties’ has already become a topic back home here. We have the right to BE ALIVE AND ENJOY so let’s get to it ….. at the same time involve our youth.”At the end of the day, Penny gave us all a pledge to sign to commit to battling ageism. “This work will only go so far unless we change the perception of aging,” it read. Download your copy here, post it to social media in response to this article, and join the movement against Ageism.Related PostsDeclaring Independence From AgeismThis Fourth of July lets declare independence from ageism! It won’t be an easy revolution. Like the colonial British Empire, ageism won’t roll over without a fight.Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse, OldSchool, Gets a Mighty UpgradeThe Old School Clearinghouse belongs to everyone and is an ongoing, evolving collaboration.Gero-Punk DharmaI have a recurring memory of meeting for an interview with one of my spiritual teachers. How many years ago did this meeting take place? I think several, perhaps even a decade has passed. I was struggling with memories around personal and family wounds over-taking me during my contemplation and…TweetShare22ShareEmail22 Shareslast_img read more