I’m thrilled to share that our paper on the Evolutionary dynamics of bacteria in the gut microbiome within and across hosts is now published in PLoS Biology!
What is the paper about?
The human gut microbiome is comprised of a complex ecosystem of microbes that reside inside of us and play an important role in our health. With as many as a billion new mutations entering our microbiomes per day, bacterial genomes inside us have a great opportunity to evolve rapidly, unlike our own genomes, which change very little throughout our lifetimes. For us humans, this genetic dynamism is both an opportunity (e.g., enabling digestion of new foods) and a challenge (e.g. the evolution of drug resistance). Despite the potential importance of these effects, we currently know very little about if and how bacteria living in us evolve. In our recent work, we quantify the evolutionary dynamics of ~40 prevalent species of gut bacteria. We find that gut bacteria can evolve within humans on short timescales (~6 months), but over our lifetimes resident bacteria are typically replaced by distantly related strains. These results suggest that gut bacteria can evolve on human-relevant timescales, but that there are limits to the extent of local adaptation.