The cartography of intestinal microbial communities in a non-human primate model system

Principal Investigator: Ken Dewar
Theme : Health
Competition : Genomics research in human health - general stream
Status : Completed
Start : Oct. 1, 2010
End: Sept. 30, 2013
Budget : $1,242,574.00

Human beings have evolved a symbiotic relationship with intestinal microbes to aid in digestion and nutrition and to protect against and combat infectious diseases. Advances in massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies now allow us the opportunity to catalog the diversity of micro-organisms inhabiting the intestinal tract, as well as to monitor how these microbial communities change due to differences in age, sex, diet, and disease.

Due to the inherent difficulties of performing these types of studies in humans, we are using a close relative, the vervet monkey, to assess microbial community structure at seven key sites along the small and large intestines in males and females at four developmental stages. Ken Dewar and his team will evaluate how microbial content evolves along the intestinal tract and measure its variability among different subjects. By comparing the results with stool samples, which are the most easily available and least invasive materials used in most studies, we will assess the accuracy of using fecal samples to interpret microbial content throughout the intestinal tract.

Improved knowledge of microbial community structure offers an alternative entry point for the treatment of many infectious diseases and digestive disorders. By better understanding the natural variability of a healthy non-human primate system, we will become better equipped to recognize perturbations due to diseases and offer new insights into non-antibiotic based treatment strategies.