Methanotrophy, Methylotrophy, the Human Body, and Disease

  • Rich BodenEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


Methylotrophic Bacteria use one-carbon (C1) compounds as their carbon source. They have been known to be associated to the human body for almost 20 years as part of the normal flora and were identified as pathogens in the early 1990s in end-stage HIV patients and chemotherapy patients. In this chapter, I look at C1 compounds in the human body and exposure from the environment and then consider Methylobacterium spp. and Methylorubrum spp. in terms of infections and its role in breast and bowel cancers, Methylococcus capsulatus and its role in inflammatory bowel disease, and Brevibacterium casei and Hyphomicrobium sulfonivorans as part of the normal human flora. I also consider the abundance of methylotrophs from the Actinobacteria being identified in human studies and the potential bias of the ionic strength of culture media and the needs for future work. Within the scope of future work, I consider the need for the urgent assessment of the pathogenic, oncogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic potential of Methylobacterium spp. and Methylorubrum spp. and the need to handle them at higher containment levels until more data are available.



I thank Dr. Ann P Wood (formerly of King’s College London, UK) for stimulating discussions on methylotrophy and human disease and Dr. Michael J Cox (Imperial College London, UK) for insight on methylotrophic contamination of molecular studies. I also thank Dr. Lee P Hutt (University of Plymouth, UK) for reading and commenting on the manuscript.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological and Marine Sciences, Faculty of Science and EngineeringUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK
  2. 2.Sustainable Earth Institute, Faculty of Science and EngineeringUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK

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