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Researchers begin work on intestinal bacteria database

Researchers from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine (NCGM) and the University of Tokyo have begun work on a database for the bacteria found in the large intestines of humans, hoping to aid in uncovering the links between bacteria and various diseases and treatments.

    The large intestine is thought to contain around 100 trillion bacteria of some 1,000 varieties, and these bacteria are said to be related to many ailments, such as multiple sclerosis, allergies and lifestyle-related diseases. However, due to a lack of a centralized collection of data on the bacteria, it has been difficult to prove the bacteria's connections to those diseases.

    The researchers will receive excrement samples from patients who visit the center's hospital for diagnoses or health checkups and have their large intestines checked with an endoscope. They aim to acquire samples from a few thousand patients -- both healthy ones and those with diseases -- and create a database that will aid in the development of treatment and prevention methods.

    Researchers will examine the genomic information of the bacteria and attempt to uncover the composition of the bacteria in the patients' large intestines and what functions the bacteria serve. The researchers will also collect information on the patients' lifestyle habits, such as alcohol and cigarette use, diet and exercise habits, and their past illnesses and any medications they are taking.

    Doctor Naoyoshi Nagata of the center's gastroenterology department says, "We also want to look at how the bacteria are related to diabetes and obesity, and at how medications that patients take affect the bacteria."

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