Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Somali, Latino, and Hmong Partnership for Health and Wellness have new evidence that the gut microbiota of immigrants and refugees rapidly Westernize after a person’s arrival in the United States. The study of communities migrating from Southeast Asia to the U.S., published November 1 in the journal Cell, could provide insight into some of the metabolic health issues, including obesity and diabetes, affecting immigrants to the country.
“We found that immigrants begin losing their native microbes almost immediately after arriving in the U.S. and then acquire alien microbes that are more common in European-American people,” says senior author Dan Knights, a computer scientist and quantitative biologist at the University of Minnesota. “But the new microbes aren’t enough to compensate for the loss of the native microbes, so we see a big overall loss of diversity.”
It has been shown before that people in developing nations have a much greater diversity of bacteria in their gut microbiome, the population of beneficial microbes living in humans’ intestines, than people living in the U.S. “But it was striking to see this loss of diversity actually happening in people who were changing countries or migrating from a developing nation to the U.S.,” he says.