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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Feb;72(2):1027-33.

Differences in fecal microbiota in different European study populations in relation to age, gender, and country: a cross-sectional study.

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  • 1Abteilung Gastrointestinale Mikrobiologie, Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Nuthetal, Germany.


A cross-sectional study on intestinal microbiota composition was performed on 230 healthy subjects at four European locations in France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden. The study participants were assigned to two age groups: 20 to 50 years (mean age, 35 years; n = 85) and >60 years (mean age, 75 years; n = 145). A set of 14 group- and species-specific 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes was applied to the analysis of fecal samples by fluorescence in situ hybridization coupled with flow cytometry. Marked country-age interactions were observed for the German and Italian study groups. These interactions were inverse for the predominant bacterial groups Eubacterium rectale-Clostridium coccoides and Bacteroides-Prevotella. Differences between European populations were observed for the Bifidobacterium group only. Proportions of bifidobacteria were two- to threefold higher in the Italian study population than in any other study group, and this effect was independent of age. Higher proportions of enterobacteria were found in all elderly volunteers independent of the location. Gender effects were observed for the Bacteroides-Prevotella group, with higher levels in males than in females. In summary, age-related differences in the microbiota makeup were detected but differed between the study populations from the four countries, each showing a characteristic colonization pattern.

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