Researchers at the University of East Anglia have discovered that bacteria and insurance companies might have something in common.
According to the study having healthy gut bacteria could have as much to do with a strategy that insurance companies use to uncover risk as with eating the right foods.
Findings published today in the journal Ecology Letters show how researchers applied a strategy used by insurance companies to understand how animals and plants recruit beneficial bacteria.
The breakthrough brings scientists closer to understanding the human body’s relationship with bacteria, which account for nine cells out of every 10 in our bodies.
The research has been carried out by Dr Douglas Yu from UEA’s school of Biological Sciences and Dr István Scheuring from Eötvös University in Hungary.
According to Dr Yu organisms employ the same strategy for selecting useful bacteria as insurance companies use to identify high-risk customers.
One of the case studies used in the research is the leafcutter ant. It has a lot of nice bacteria on them that make antibiotics, which kill pathogenic moulds on the fungus that they farm for food.
The scientists argue that the ant host has evolved living conditions under which antibiotic-producing bacteria have a competitive advantage for the ant niche.
The UEA research shows that if the host produces a lot of food for bacteria, it fuels fighting via antibiotics.
It is hoped that the findings will also advance our understanding of the human body.
“How to assemble a beneficial microbiome in three easy steps’ is published in Ecology Letters today.