Keep on running with bacteria

A new study at the Harvard Medical School has shown that the bacterium Veillonella atypica was prevalent more so in runner-athletes then in a control group of sedentary persons. They hypothesized that this bacterium causes a higher energy influx into the body, granting them an increased performance and endurance.

To test this, they gave this bacterium as a supplement to experimental rodents, and saw that they indeed performed better on the treadmill-test, as compared to control mice. They further noticed that V. atypica is relatively rare in the normal human microbiome, and that this bacterium solely uses lactic acid as a subtrate. This is a main effector molecule of strenuous exercise, and as such the researchers speculated that an increase in this bacterium in the gut allows for more efficient lactic acid clearance, and as such a delayed onset of fatigue when running.

When they further investigated which genes or enzymes were involved in this conversion of lactic acid, they discovered the pathway led to propionate. In a subsequent experiment, they found that propionate had the same effect on endurance in mice as did administration of V. atypica, which may suggest propionate has beneficial activity in energy levels and metabolism.