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Methanogens in humans: potentially beneficial or harmful for health


Methanogens are anaerobic prokaryotes from the domain archaea that utilize hydrogen to reduce carbon dioxide, acetate, and a variety of methyl compounds into methane. Earlier believed to inhabit only the extreme environments, these organisms are now reported to be found in various environments including mesophilic habitats and the human body. The biological significance of methanogens for humans has been re-evaluated in the last few decades. Their contribution towards pathogenicity has received much less attention than their bacterial counterparts. In humans, methanogens have been studied in the gastrointestinal tract, mouth, and vagina, and considerable focus has shifted towards elucidating their possible role in the progression of disease conditions in humans. Methanoarchaea are also part of the human skin microbiome and proposed to play a role in ammonia turnover. Compared to hundreds of different bacterial species, the human body harbors only a handful of methanogen species represented by Methanobrevibacter smithii, Methanobrevibacter oralis, Methanosphaera stadtmanae, Methanomassiliicoccus luminyensis, Candidatus Methanomassiliicoccus intestinalis, and Candidatus Methanomethylophilus alvus. Their presence in the human gut suggests an indirect correlation with severe diseases of the colon. In this review, we examine the current knowledge about the methanoarchaea in the human body and possible beneficial or less favorable interactions.

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The authors are thankful to the NTU Food Technology Centre (NAFTEC), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, for providing the financial support during this study.

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Correspondence to Prem Prashant Chaudhary.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Chaudhary, P.P., Conway, P.L. & Schlundt, J. Methanogens in humans: potentially beneficial or harmful for health. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 102, 3095–3104 (2018).

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  • Archaea
  • Methanogens
  • Human gut
  • Immune response
  • Microbiome