Our guts house a thriving community of microbes, responsible for many bodily functions we take for granted. The overall diversity of bacteria and the delicate balance of pathogenic and beneficial species are extremely important for our health, yet Western lifestyles are increasingly associated with a loss of microbial diversity, contributing to many prevalent metabolic and autoimmune diseases. Studying some of our closest relatives may help us understand why this microbial imbalance, or dysbiosis, has occurred, as a parallel loss can be seen in primate species, including the red-shanked douc (pictured), when kept in captivity. Individuals in zoos are missing many bacterial species found in wild populations, primarily because of dietary differences, such as a reduced diversity of plants available to captive animals. These results suggest that modern diets, and especially our lower intake of plant fibre, might be most important in destabilising the microbial community we so greatly need.
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