By now most of us know a thing or two about the trillions of microbes taking up residence in the human gut. We know there are good guys and bad guys, and we know maintaining the right balance is at the foundation of our well-being. But did you know your friendly bacteria—called probiotics—have a way of guarding their turf from their foes?
In one study led by a team at Yale University in Connecticut, researchers revealed that our beneficial gut bacteria have the ability to determine whether or not the cells around them are on their side or not. And, if not, they have developed a way to protect themselves by bombarding the bad guys with toxic chemicals.
“These bacteria are friendly to us, but possess an elaborate arsenal to protect their space,” said lead author Aaron Wexler in a recent news release, who points out that some bacteria are more adept than others at safeguarding their territory. According to the study, a group called Bacteroidetes, which accounts for a significant portion of our gut bacteria, are particularly good defending themselves in this way.
Wexler and his team hope their findings can help us gain a better understanding of just how our complex microbiome works to protect us from infection and disease.