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FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2014 Oct;90(1):326-30. doi: 10.1111/1574-6941.12396. Epub 2014 Sep 15.

The microbial eukaryote Blastocystis is a prevalent and diverse member of the healthy human gut microbiota.

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Teagasc Food Research Centre, Fermoy, Cork, Ireland.


To date, the majority of research into the human gut microbiota has focused on the bacterial fraction of the community. Inevitably, this has resulted in a poor understanding of the diversity and functionality of other intestinal microorganisms in the human gut. One such nonbacterial member is the microbial eukaryote Blastocystis, which has been implicated in the aetiology of a range of different intestinal and extra-intestinal diseases. However, prevalence data from different studies are conflicting, and crucially, there is limited information on its incidence and diversity in healthy individuals. Here, we survey the prevalence, genetic diversity and temporal stability of Blastocystis in a group of healthy adults (n = 105) using a sensitive PCR assay. Blastocystis was present in 56% of our sample set, which is much higher than previously reported from an industrialised county (Ireland). Moreover, a diversity of different subtypes (species) were detected, and Blastocystis was present in a subset of individuals sampled over a period of time between 6 and 10 years, indicating that it is capable of long-term host colonisation. These results show that Blastocystis is a common and diverse member of the healthy gut microbiota, thereby extending our knowledge of the microbial ecology of the healthy human intestine.


Blastocystis; gut microbiota; intestinal disease

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