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Gut Bacteria: Answers in Medieval Loos!

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Scientists Dig for Answers in Medieval Loos!

Looking For Signatures In 600-Year-Old Poop DNA


A medieval toilet may not be the first place you’d want to dig as an archaeologist, but old latrines are surprisingly good at revealing secrets to life in the Middle Ages! A team of scientists looking at medieval gut bacteria samples from two ancient toilets have reported on what is the first scientific attempt to detect ancient gut bacteria in this not-so-fun way.

The study was launched to determine what exactly constitutes a healthy microbiome for modern people. And to answer this question a team of researchers studied the microbiomes of our ancestors who lived long before antibiotics were in use and who didn’t eat any processed foods at all. The results of the experiment shed important light on the health of people in the Middle Ages.



This investigation has confirmed Dr Mitchell’s primary suspicions. Specifically, the DNA remnants from “Treponema” bacteria, which are found in the guts of modern hunter-gatherers but not industrialized people, and “Bifidobacterium,” which are present in industrialized people but not hunter-gatherers, indicate what Dr Mitchell describes as “a dietary trade-off.”

Another article on the subject:



The scientists’ investigation confirmed their suspicions, revealing DNA remnants from Treponema bacteria, which are found in the guts of modern hunter-gatherers but not industrialized people, and Bifidobacterium, which are present in industrialized people but not hunter-gatherers. Per the paper, researchers often describe these differences in microbiomes as the result of a dietary trade-off.


“If we are to determine what constitutes a healthy microbiome for modern people,” says Mitchell in the statement, “we should start looking at the microbiomes of our ancestors who lived before antibiotic use, fast food, and the other trappings of industrialization.”



DNA analysis has given us insights into life of the ancient world. Now, we have a tool to more precisely assess the health of ancient people.

The microbiome (bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses - that live on and inside the human body - along with their genetic material) in our intestines would be expected to be different from our ancient ancestors as a result of differences in diet, lifestyle, modern use of antibiotics, etc. Future research will determine what impact this has on our overall health, however.



guy also known as gaius


Of the 100 trillion microbes that exist in our bodies, about 80% live in our guts. The microbiome is essential for nutrition, immunity, digestion, hormone secretion, and inflammation. 


Edited by guy

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