A team led by microbiologists Professor David Schleheck from the University of Konstanz and Alexander Loy from the University of Vienna recently discovered the metabolic capabilities of gut bacteria. According to SciTechDaily, this is the first-time scientists assessed how microbes in the gut process sulfoquinovose, plant-based sulfur which contains sugar.
Producing hydrogen sulfide
The study, published in The ISME Journal, revealed that particular types of microbes cooperate to utilize sulfosugar, generating hydrogen sulfide in the process. Hydrogen sulfide is characterized by a smell similar to that of rotten eggs.
Gas has different effects on human health. In low volume, it has anti-inflammatory effects, while in large concentrations, it can be linked to various types of cancer.
With the consumption of just one vegetable like spinach, thousands of chemicals enter the digestive system. The chemicals are then metabolized by the gut microbiome, a collection of bacterial species in the gut. The gut microbiome, therefore, plays a vital role in linking nutrition to human health.
However, at this point, little is known about the capabilities of these bacteria in the microbiome. Buck Hanson, a microbiologist at the Center for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science microbiologist and lead author of the study, explains that the substances they feed on remain unknown.
He added that by exploring the metabolism of sulfosugar sulfoquinovose, they had revealed some details on the “black-box,” as it is often called. The study contains valuable information that can be used to aim nutrition and, later on, microbiomes therapeutically.
Other bacteria can use sulfoquinovose as a nutrient
According to PubChem, sulfoquinovose is a sulfonic acid derived from glucose and is a building block in many vegetables. Existing studies showed that, in theory, other bacteria could use sulfosugar as a nutrient. In the new study, the scientists used stool samples to see how such theories could work in real life.
Schleheck explained that in the study, they realized that while glucose feeds a variety of bacteria, sulfoquinovose only grows a targeted group of gut organisms. These organisms include microbe from the Eubacterium rectale species, one of the most common bacteria in healthy people.