Were Intestines Designed for Bacteria? | The Institute for Creation Research

Were Intestines Designed for Bacteria?

Scientists purposefully made mice sick to test how the creatures’ intestines—and the microbes they harbor—would react. They discovered details behind a remarkable relationship that, when working well, keeps both parties healthy.

Intestinal germs form part of a complicated digestive system, with different species lining up in ordered but dynamic layers to help break down food products so the host can more efficiently absorb nutrients.1 In exchange, these helpful microbes get a nice place to live. But what happens when illness threatens this well-lubricated microbial machinery?

Scientists publishing in Nature found that during illness, mouse intestines manufacture a special food for their bacteria.2 Without this sugary food source—called fucose—sick mice may lose their helpful microbes.3

The researchers genetically engineered mice without the gene that makes fucose, and compared those creatures’ ability to recover from illness with that of normal mice. University of Chicago Medical Center news wrote, “Only mice with both intact gut microbiota and the ability to produce fucose recovered efficiently.”4 Mice that could not feed their friendly germs lost more weight and took longer to recover that weight after the illness passed.

How do microbes help the mice? A healthy gut microbiota repels pathogens. With unhealthy microbiota, pathogens can land on intestinal real estate and the sick mouse likely gets sicker, or at the very least takes longer to rebound.

It makes sense for the host to keep its microbes happy and healthy—but how did mouse cells ever figure that out? Small intestine tissue produces fucose that travels down to the large intestine, where more microbes hang out. It looks like somebody was thinking ahead when they designed this remarkable system.

And how did gut bacteria figure out how to help one another? This Nature study found that one species of bacteria accesses the mouse-made fucose and makes it available for other bacterial species. Its authors wrote, “These findings made it clear that fucose can serve as a substrate [food source] for the microbiota under conditions of stress applied to the host, and underscored the interdependence between members of the gut microbial community.”2

Not only do these different gut bacteria depend on each other, but this study confirmed interdependence between mammal and microbe.

Mouse gets sick. Mouse makes fucose to feed friendly bacteria. Bacteria block pathogens from accessing mouse tissue. Mouse recovers fast. Bacteria help the mouse, and the mouse gives bacteria a place to stay. Could anything but intentional design reasonably explain this kind of elaborate cooperation?5

Here in this microscopic world within mouse intestines, precisely designed enzymes and transporter proteins anticipate the needs of two totally different organisms. This amazing display of creation confirms that germs and intestines were made for each other.

References

  1. Anderson, K. L. 2003. The complex world of gastrointestinal bacteria. Canadian Journal of Animal Science. 83 (3): 409-427.
  2. Pickard, J. M. et al. Rapid fucosylation of intestinal epithelium sustains host-commensal symbiosis in sickness. Nature. Published online before print, October 1, 2014.
  3. The study authors also noted that 20 percent of humans lack the gene that codes for fucose-producing enzyme, all of which is linked to Crohn’s disease. It appears human gut microbiota functions much like that in mice.
  4. Gut Bacteria Are Protected by Host During Illness. University of Chicago Medicine press release. Posted on uchospitals.edu October 2, 2014, accessed October 2, 2014.
  5. See also Thomas, B. 2013. Interdependence: A Conversation Starter. Acts & Facts. 42 (10): 13.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on October 8, 2014.

The Latest
COVID-19
Some Fake Coronavirus News Used to Spread Malware
As a systems administrator, I see thousands of emails come in where someone is trying to get a user to click on a link. A lot of these are just plain old...

NEWS
Traces of "Oldest Ancestor" Found
A new study released on March 23, 2020, claims that evolutionary scientists have identified the oldest human ancestor. The fossil evidence for this assertion...

COVID-19
Three Positives from COVID-19
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is no surprise to God. God knew about this pandemic before the dawn of His creation. Some people may question why God allows such...

COVID-19
The Gospel and COVID-19
It is obvious that life in America, and most parts of the world, has drastically changed in the last few months due to the novel coronavirus. Whether we...

COVID-19
A Time for Firsts Amid COVID-19
All of us have experience with firsts, and today is no exception as America sails through the uncharted waters of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19)....

COVID-19
What’s the Difference Between Virus and Bacteria?
As we are embroiled in a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know the basics of these tragic viral infections and why the medical community...

NEWS
ICR Beginning Search for a New President
As was noted in my article “Biblical Succession” in the April issue of Acts & Facts, the ICR Board of Trustees has authorized a national...

COVID-19
Potential Coronavirus Treatments Enter Large Clinical Trials
Some good news in potential treatment options for COVID-19 was reported in the American journal Science.1 Four new treatment options were being...

NEWS
Yellowstone Supervolcano Unlikely to Blow
For several years, secular scientists have been predicting a possible supervolcano eruption at Yellowstone National Park. Recently, the London Daily Mail...

NEWS
Deep Water Squid Communication Mystifies Scientists
In the deep, dark, cold waters of the Pacific Ocean—about 1,500 feet below the surface— hundreds of Humboldt squid the size of small humans...