A Mass Extinction Is Taking Place in the Human Gut
The reasons behind scientists' harvesting of human feces
In November 2022, Swiss scientists opened an eagerly awaited package from rural Ethiopia. It was full of feces.
For two months, public health researcher Abdifatah Muhummed had been collecting stool samples from children in a remote, pastoralist community in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, as part of a global effort to catalog and preserve the diversity of human gut bacteria. He split each sample into four tubes, froze them at –80 degrees Celsius, and shipped two of them to Europe.
Trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes live in the digestive tract. Many of them are beneficial to human health—influencing our metabolism and immune system, for example. But their diversity is under threat from industrialization, urbanization and environmental changes.
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