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Good bugs and bad bugs

emma allen vercoe
Emma Allen-Vercoe

Did you know that right now you have more bacteria living in your gut than there are people on the planet?
All humans have unique microflora or a “poo print” made up of up to 1,000 different bacterial species that remain with them throughout their lives. The microflora contribute a great deal to your health, says Prof. Emma Allen-Vercoe, Molecular and Cellular Biology. “Research suggests they play a huge role in obesity and cancer, and the list goes on.”
Allen-Vercoe, who came to U of G in December, is studying how the gut microflora contribute to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an umbrella term for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. She’s specifically interested in Fusobacterium nucleatum, an invasive anaerobic bacterium that lives in the mouth and causes periodontitis. She’s trying to learn how it interacts with cells inside the gut to exacerbate IBD.
This research is tricky because most of the bacteria in the gut are can grow only in conditions without oxygen. Her science complex lab is one of the few places in Canada where this research can be done.



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