The research led by microbiologist Nicola Segata from the University of Trento in Italy suggests that the trillions of microbes that call our bodies home could be more contagious than previously thought.
The findings are based on more than 9,000 stool and saliva samples collected from participants with known connections to each other, and reveal that who you live with and who you were raised by could have a greater impact on your microbiome than some lifestyle factors, age, or even genetics.
Social interactions could help shape an individual’s community of microbes, and that, in turn, could “have a role in microbiome-associated diseases”.
Mother-to-infant transmission was the most significant route of exposure, with about 50 percent of the same bacterial strains being shared between mother and child in the first year of life.
Additionally, the longer identical twins lived apart, the fewer microbial strains they shared in their gut.
Even superficial interactions can influence a person’s microbiome, for better or worse.
The findings suggest that some non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, or cancer could potentially be communicable to some extent.
In another study, researchers looked at the microbiome in lean mice (and human volunteers) and compared them to obese mice (and humans). They found the microbiomes differed significantly. But they also found that when the lean mice microbiomes were colonized by the obese mice microbiomes the lean mice gained weight.
So given this study on the contagiousness of the microbiome does that mean that obesity can be contagious?
I guess we will have to wait for further studies to find out…