A new study published this week demonstrates a first attempt at using the methods of ancient bacterial detection, pioneered in studies of past epidemics, to characterize the microbial diversity of ancient gut contents from two medieval latrines. The findings provide insights into the microbiomes of pre-industrial agricultural populations, which may provide much-needed context for interpreting the health of modern microbiomes.
Over the years, scientists have noted that those living in industrialized societies have a notably different microbiome compared to hunter-gatherer communities around the world. From this, a growing body of evidence has linked changes in our microbiome to many of the diseases of the modern industrialized world, such as inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and obesity. The current study helps to characterize the change in gut microbiomes and highlights the value of ancient latrines as sources of bio-molecular