Diabetes linked to composition of intestinal flora

27 September 2012

An international team studying the genetics of intestinal flora in diabetics has found that there is a characteristic mix of bacteria in the patients tested. The gut microbial markers identified could be used for classifying type 2 diabetes.

The team developed a protocol for a metagenome-wide association study (MGWAS) and sequenced the gut microbial DNA from 345 Chinese patients with type 2 diabetes.

It's a typical flora for someone with a mild form of gastroenteritis" says Jeroen Raes. "Now it is also important to include the Western population to see if these markers may be predictors — then the path is open for early diagnostic tests".

This microbiome study also serves as a model for future research on markers of other diseases, work already underway at the VIB-lab, including on the basis of the Flemish Intestinal Flora Project.


To determine the effect of the intestinal flora on our health, tremendous efforts have been made worldwide in the recent years. In order to assess the billions of flora in and on our bodies (the human microbiome), nowadays the genetic information of all flora are researched together (metagenomics). A recent metagenomics study, that included a researcher in this study, Jeroen Raes, shows that people can be divided into 3 groups based on the flora in the large intestine, the so-called enterotypes.

Diabetes type 2

Diabetes is an incurable metabolic disorder, in which the body is unable to get enough energy from sugars. Especially type 2 diabetes has become an alarming global problem in recent years. There has been an enormous increase in the number of type 2 diabetes patients, even at a younger age.

Both genetic as well as environmental factors play a role in the development of the disease. Until now, scientists have focused primarily on identifying genetic markers in the human itself. Recent research has shown that other factors, such as intestinal flora, play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Further information

Qin et al. A metagenome-wide association study of gut microbiota in type 2 diabetes. Nature 2012.

 The research was conducted by an  international consortium of scientists, including Jeroen Raes, connected to VIB and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Jeroen Raes, Gwen Falony, Shujiro Okuda together with their colleagues from the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI, Shenzhen, China).


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