Irish Travelers Microbiome Research May Help Treat Gut Disease

APC research suggests that Irish travelers have beneficial differences in their gut microbiome, which can be affected if they adopt a fixed lifestyle.

A new study indicates that Irish Travelers’ gut microbiome differs from that of the established community and may offer insights into the treatment of chronic inflammatory disease.

The research is published by APC Microbiome Ireland, the research center of the Science Foundation Ireland, based at University College Cork and Teagasc. A video summarizing the findings was launched today (July 21) at Cork City Hall as part of Traveler Pride Week.

The studypublished in Nature Medicine, suggests that members of the Traveler community maintain a “non-industrialized” type of microbiome, which could provide protection against conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease.

The researchers noted that many Irish travelers’ lifestyles changed with legislation in the early 2000s that “effectively ended nomadism and changed their living conditions”.

“Our findings suggest that there are microbiome-related public health consequences when ethnic minorities are pressured to change their lifestyles,” the researchers said.

The study involved collaboration with the Traveler Visibility Group (TVG) and Travelers of North Cork. The findings are important to the community as it reinforces formal recognition in 2017 that travelers are a distinct ethnic group in Ireland.

“The microbiome research has confirmed what we’ve always known: we need to preserve Traveler’s traditional lifestyle as it is essential to the health and well-being of our community,” said TVG advocacy director Breda O’Donoghue.

“We can see from the research that once a traveler adapts to a fixed lifestyle, their microbiome is negatively affected.”

It is also hoped that the findings could help address challenges in treating chronic gut disease.

The study’s lead researcher, Prof. Fergus Shanahan, said that in his “long career as a gastroenterologist,” he has never met a member of the Traveler community with inflammatory bowel disease.

“Further research could help us harness the microbiome in finding a solution to inflammatory bowel disease, which affects 40,000 people in Ireland and 10 million worldwide each year,” Shanahan said.

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