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Anaerobe. 2011 Apr;17(2):56-63. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2011.03.001. Epub 2011 Mar 21.

Archaea as emerging organisms in complex human microbiomes.

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  • 1Unité de Recherche sur les Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales Emergentes, Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France.


In this work, we review the state of knowledge of Archaea associated with the human microbiome. These prokaryotes, initially discovered in extreme environments, were named Archaea because these environments were thought to be the most primitive on Earth. Further research revealed that this terminology is misleading because these organisms were later found in various non-extreme environments, including the human host. Further examination of the human microbiome has enabled the isolation of three archaeal species, Methanobrevibacter smithii, Methanosphaera stadtmanae and Methanobrevibacter oralis, which are associated with oral, intestinal and vaginal mucosae in humans. Moreover, molecular studies including metagenomic analyses detected DNA sequences indicative of the presence of additional methanogenic and non-methanogenic Archaea in the human intestinal tract. All three culturable Archaea are strict anaerobes, although their potential role in human diseases remains to be established. Future research aims to detect and culture additional human mucosa-associated Archaea and to look for their presence in additional human tissues, to establish their role in human infections involving complex flora.

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