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Microbiota: what if you donated your stool to science?

It is a participatory science campaign of an unusual kind, which is launched this Monday by French research teams: members of the “French Gut” project are recruiting stool donors on a large scale.

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Microbiota: what if you donated your stool to science?

It is a participatory science campaign of an unusual kind, which is launched this Monday by French research teams: members of the “French Gut” project are recruiting stool donors on a large scale. Their objective: to better understand the intestinal microbiota of the French, and the way in which these millions of microorganisms with which we coexist influence our health and are influenced by its developments.

Initiated and supported by Inrae and its MetaGenoPolis unit, and carried out in collaboration with the AP-HP, the “French Gut” (French intestine) project hopes to collect 100,000 fecal samples by 2027, after a pilot phase launched in September 2022 which aimed to collect 3000. The analysis of samples from people “in good health or illness, of any age and from any region of France” will make it possible to “identify microbiota profiles of healthy people to define standards with thresholds, like blood tests,” hopes Professor Joël Doré, Inrae research director and project coordinator, interviewed by AFP. “It will then be possible to prevent chronic diseases if the intestinal microbiota is not normal.” The project is allocated 32 million euros over 5 years, in partnership with public institutions and private players in the microbiota field.

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In practice, a first wave of recruitment of 7,000 volunteers starts this Monday, and will be followed by two others, next spring and fall. Candidates are invited to register on the website lefrenchgut.fr to complete a questionnaire on their lifestyle habits, diet and state of health, then they will receive “a collection kit at home (a tube with a mini spoon ) to be sent to the AP-HP which monitors compliance and anonymizes donations of fecal matter,” explains Joël Doré. The samples will then be sent to MetaGenoPolis to be frozen and stored.

“We have become aware that humans are microbial and that this has an impact on diagnosis, prevention and therapy. Our digestive tract contains some 50,000 billion bacteria and even more microbes, yeasts, fungi, viruses,” explains Joël Doré. “We know, for example, that the microbiota is altered in chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases, liver diseases, neurological and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. As part of a study conducted with the Gustave Roussy Cancer Institute, we found that the microbiota can predict whether or not a patient responds to immunotherapy treatment against certain cancers. »

Scientific interest in this microbiota is not recent: as early as the 20th century, at the Pasteur Institute, the Russian bacteriologist and immunologist Élie Metchnikov put forward the idea that an imbalance between the different bacterial populations populating our intestines could have consequences on our health. But it is high-throughput sequencing, developed over the past fifteen years, which has allowed the science of the microbiota to make giant strides by offering the ability to characterize the genes of these microorganisms as we do for the human genome. .

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