June 19, 2022 8 min read
Oscillibacter sp. 57_20 is a member of the Firmicutes family and has been identified as one of the ‘good’ gut bugs in the PREDICT study series. Oscillibacter sp. 57_20 has only recently been discovered, so not much is known about it yet.
That means there is a lot of information that scientists are yet to discover, and in the research world, that’s exciting stuff.
However, we know that this microbe is a common inhabitant of the human gut. Researchers from PREDICT, the world’s largest study of nutrition and bacteria, found that 90% of their participants had Oscillibacter sp. 57_20 in their gut. So, chances are you do too.
Oscillibacter sp. 57_20 is a relatively new species of bacteria. By that, we mean recently discovered; there is still much more that scientists and researchers can learn about this common gut inhabitant.
However, we know that it is part of the Firmicutes phylum – a taxonomic rank that’s third in the classification hierarchy. The taxonomic rank of phylum is below Kingdom but above Class, and the term was first created by the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel.
In the PREDICT studies, researchers found that 90% of participants had Oscillibacter sp. 57_20 in their gut[i], which has been identified as a ‘good’ gut microbe. The reason for this is its inclusion in the Firmicutes phyla because many of these bacteria have health-promoting properties.
Although there is no official classification scheme for bacteria, they do have formal nomenclature which is internationally regulated and recognised. The rules are set out in the International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes[i].
In short, Firmicutes are a type of bacteria that reside in the human gut. The Firmicutes phylum consists of over 200 different genera, including Lactobacillus, Ruminococcus,and Clostridium[iii], and this is also the phyla to which Oscillibacter belong.
The human gut is home to trillions of different microbes, but there are two main phyla: Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes.The latter is of great interest to scientists because of their role in supporting our metabolic health, reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes, as well as supporting our immune health.
Like many commensal bacteria living in the human gut, Oscillibacter sp. 57_20 breaks down the carbohydrates you eat that your body is not equipped to digest, like dietary fibre and resistant starch, and transforms it into metabolites your body can use. The process is called fermentation, and the bi-products they create include vitamins and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).
Many of the Firmicutes phyla produce butyrate, a critical SCFA with numerous health benefits for humans. In the previous post of this series, we outlined the beneficial effects of Faecalibacterium Prausnitzii and how this is one of the most prominent butyrate producers in the gut[iv]. That’s because F Prausnitziiis also a member of the Firmicutes phylum.
Butyrate is like a bacterial superpower unleashed to keep your gut healthy and protect your body from inflammation.
Here are some of the beneficial properties of this SCFA:
Research has shown that the gut microbiota may play an essential role in controlling your body weight[vi]. In particular, the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio is believed to influence normal gut homeostasis. So much so that an increased Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio is associated with obesity and a reduced ratio with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)[vii].
In a study from 2017 involving 61 healthy adults, divided into four groups based on their body mass index (BMI) (underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese), researchers found differences in the gut microbiota of these individuals.
The study took place in Ukraine and found that obese individuals had a greater abundance of Firmicutesand a lower abundance of Bacteroidetesthan lean individuals and those considered to be of normal weight[viii].
However, the research can be conflicting because other studies have found the opposite (a reduced Firmicutesto Bacteroidetesratio[ix]). What is clear, though, is that obesity is associated with dysbiosis, an imbalance in the gut microbiome, which can lead to reduced production or expression of SCFAs, leading to a compromised gut barrier, low-grade inflammation, and an increased risk of developing other metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes[x].
Several of the bacteria in our gut are specific in interacting and working with their environment. They are affected by diet, exercise level, and other lifestyle factors. The PREDICT 1 study took these influences and other factors into consideration to better understand how they influence the gut ecosystem.
Oscillibacter sp. 57_20 has been termed a ‘good’ gut microbe because it is a common member of the human gut microbiome. It is also part of the Firmicutes phyla that, collectively via their work in the gut, are seen to promote good health[xi].
Furthermore, just like Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Eubacterium eligens,the PREDICT researchers identified a link between Oscillibacter sp. 57_20in the gut and lower insulin secretion and increased insulin sensitivity.
What does that mean for your health? Increased sensitivity to insulin and lower secretion of this vital hormone is important because too much in circulation can be harmful. High quantities can increase metabolic disease risks such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Firmicutes may be great at absorbing fat according to a study conducted in zebrafish and may convert it into useable energy[xii]. Unfortunately, unused fats can be stored by the body, which, in turn, will create issues where weight is concerned. More research needs to be conducted but there is some early evidence to suggest that the composition of the gut microbiota may influence fat absorption. Who knows, in the future the gut microbiome could become a target for weight loss through probiotics and prebiotics?
Don’t be alarmed though not all fats are bad. Your body can make most of the fats it needs from other fats or raw materials, but some are essential. That means you must acquire them from your diet, such as omega-3. You can make healthier fat swaps by including the following foods in your diet:
Omega-3 is essential because it’s an integral part of your cell membranes and participates in the synthesis of hormones associated with blood clotting and the contraction and relaxation of artery walls[xiii]. But omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to help prevent heart disease, control autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and lower the risk of developing dementia[xiv].
In general, if you want a diverse microbiome, balance is critical. Eating a balanced diet and incorporating plenty of fruit and vegetables, good carbohydrates (like prebiotics & wholegrains), and lots of polyphenols (naturally occurring plant compounds) will help to increase the abundance of Firmicutes and promote their health-related benefits. Plus, a high level of polyphenols will keep the numbers of Firmicutes in the right balance[xv]. (Shop Prebiotics & Polyphenols).
Oscillibacter sp. 57_20is seen to be a promoter of good health. The research into it as a single strain is limited; in saying this, the glass is half full and still being topped up. The unfolding research is evolving and identifies how the gut microbiota is essential to our health as a collective.
As this research continues, we stand upon the edge of an unfolding wealth of crucial knowledge. Knowledge that can hopefully one day scream so loud, giving everyone the power to keep chronic and debilitating diseases at bay, just by following a tailored lifestyle that gives these colonies an optimum chance to support our health.
A science writer who specializes in human health and enjoys writing about all things related to the gut microbiome.
[i] Hewings-Martin Y & Giordano F. What is Oscillibacter sp. 57_20 and why is he a ‘good’ bug? February 2022 Available at: https://joinzoe.com/learn/what-is-oscillibacter-sp-57-20
[ii] Parker C T, Tindall B J & Garrity G M. International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology Volume 69 Issue 1A January 2019 https://doi.org/10.1099/ijsem.0.000778
[iii] Rinninella E, Raoul P, Cintoni M, Franceschi F, Miggiano GAD, Gasbarrini A, Mele MC. What is the Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition? A Changing Ecosystem across Age, Environment, Diet, and Diseases. Microorganisms. 2019 Jan 10;7(1):14. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms7010014. PMID: 30634578; PMCID: PMC6351938.
[iv] Amiri P, Hosseini SA, Ghaffari S, Tutunchi H, Ghaffari S, Mosharkesh E, Asghari S and Roshanravan N. Role of Butyrate, a Gut Microbiota Derived Metabolite, in Cardiovascular Diseases: A comprehensive narrative review. Front. Pharmacol. 12:837509. February 2022. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.837509
[v] Hu Liu, Ji Wang, Ting He, Sage Becker, Guolong Zhang, Defa Li, Xi Ma, Butyrate: A Double-Edged Sword for Health?, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 9, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 21–29, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmx009
[vi] Crovesy L, Masterson D & Rosado E L. Profile of the gut microbiota of adults with obesity: a systematic review. Eur J Clin Nutr 74, 1251–1262 March 2020. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-020-0607-6
[vii] Stojanov S, Berlec A, Štrukelj B. The Influence of Probiotics on the Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes Ratio in the Treatment of Obesity and Inflammatory Bowel disease. Microorganisms. 2020 Nov 1;8(11):1715. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8111715. PMID: 33139627; PMCID: PMC7692443.
[viii] Koliada A, Syzenko G, Moseiko V et al. Association between body mass index and Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio in an adult Ukrainian population. BMC Microbiol 17, 120 September 2017. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12866-017-1027-1
[x] Amabebe E, Robert FO, Agbalalah T, Orubu ESF. Microbial dysbiosis-induced obesity: role of gut microbiota in homoeostasis of energy metabolism. British Journal of Nutrition. Cambridge University Press; 2020;123(10):1127–1137.
[xi] Asnicar F, Berry SE, Valdes AM, Nguyen LH, Piccinno G, Drew DA, Leeming E, Gibson R, Le Roy C, Khatib HA, Francis L, Mazidi M, Mompeo O, Valles-Colomer M, Tett A, Beghini F, Dubois L, Bazzani D, Thomas AM, Mirzayi C, Khleborodova A, Oh S, Hine R, Bonnett C, Capdevila J, Danzanvilliers S, Giordano F, Geistlinger L, Waldron L, Davies R, Hadjigeorgiou G, Wolf J, Ordovás JM, Gardner C, Franks PW, Chan AT, Huttenhower C, Spector TD, Segata N. Microbiome connections with host metabolism and habitual diet from 1,098 deeply phenotyped individuals. Nat Med. 2021 Feb;27(2):321-332. doi: 10.1038/s41591-020-01183-8. Epub 2021 Jan 11. PMID: 33432175; PMCID: PMC8353542.
[xii] Semova I, Carten JD, Stombaugh J, Knight R, Farber SA & Rawls JF. Microbiota regulate intestinal absorption and metabolism of fatty acids in the zebrafish. Cell Host & Microbe, Volume 12, Issue 3, September 2012, Pages 277-288, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2012.08.003
[xiii] Harvard T H Chan. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/
[xiv] Thomas A, Baillet M, Proust-Lima C, Féart C, Foubert-Samier A, Helmer C, Catheline G & Samieri C. Blood polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, brain atrophy, cognitive decline, and dementia risk. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Volume 17, Issue 3, October 2020, Pages 407-416, https://doi.org/10.1002/alz.12195
[xv] Rastmanesh R. High polyphenol, low probiotic diet for weight loss because of intestinal microbiota interaction. Chem Biol Interact. 2011 Jan 15;189(1-2):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2010.10.002. Epub 2010 Oct 15. PMID: 20955691.
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