Scientists want to create a "Noah's Ark," a massive freezer that could protect and preserve good bacteria collected from all over the world.
Similar to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a bank storing plants to prepare for a doomsday scenario, scientists wanted to archive good bacteria that help regulate human health to save them from extinction.
The proposed "Noah's Ark" was published in the journal Science.
Saving Good Bacteria
Several previous studies have proven the role that the collection of good bacteria play to keep a person healthy and happy. Experts blame the sharp increase of cases of diabetes, asthma, allergies, and obesity to the decline of microbiota (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. that live in the human body).
To prevent a scenario where microbiota have perished, a team of scientists has proposed a "Noah's Ark" that will collect all these microscopic life from people around the world, including those who have remained untouched by the modern society.
"We're facing a growing global health crisis, which requires that we capture and preserve the diversity of the human microbiota while it still exists," explained Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a professor at the Rutgers University-New Brunswick and lead author of the study. " Over a handful of generations, we have seen a staggering loss in microbial diversity linked with a worldwide spike in immune and other disorders."
People who live in cities have already lost a chunk of their microbiota diversity due to several factors including antibiotics and poor diet. To compare, the gut flora of Americans is only half as diverse as the gut flora of those who are living in isolated Amazonian villages.
Researchers are already comparing the severity of global microbial loss to climate change in terms of its importance to the future of the human race.
They hope that, one day, the microbiota vault will be of use in the complete elimination of health conditions such as obesity by the reintroduction of lost good bacteria into the human body.
How It Can Be Done
A "Noah's Ark" dedicated to preserving the diversity of microbiota will be a global effort. To make a complete archive, scientists would need to collect microbes from populations untouched by urbanizations such as remote villages in Latin America and Africa.
The microbiota vault will also be housed in an isolated and autonomous place, similar to the Svalbard Seed Bank, which is located in Norway, where it will be safe from political intervention or natural and man-made disasters. Dominguez-Bello is considering Norway or Switzerland.