The human gut microbiome is linked to many states of human health and disease1. The metabolic repertoire of the gut microbiome is vast, but the health implications of these bacterial pathways are poorly understood. In this study, we identify a link between members of the genus Veillonella and exercise performance. We observed an increase in Veillonella relative abundance in marathon runners postmarathon and isolated a strain of Veillonella atypica from stool samples. Inoculation of this strain into mice significantly increased exhaustive treadmill run time. Veillonella utilize lactate as their sole carbon source, which prompted us to perform a shotgun metagenomic analysis in a cohort of elite athletes, finding that every gene in a major pathway metabolizing lactate to propionate is at higher relative abundance postexercise. Using 13C3-labeled lactate in mice, we demonstrate that serum lactate crosses the epithelial barrier into the lumen of the gut. We also show that intrarectal instillation of propionate is sufficient to reproduce the increased treadmill run time performance observed with V. atypica gavage. Taken together, these studies reveal that V. atypica improves run time via its metabolic conversion of exercise-induced lactate into propionate, thereby identifying a natural, microbiome-encoded enzymatic process that enhances athletic performance.
Paradigm shift is an overused term. Properly, it refers to a radical change of perspective on a topic, such as the move from the physics of Newton to the physics of Einstein, or the introduction of plate tectonics into geology. Such things are rare. Something which history may come to regard as a true paradigm shift does, however, seem to be going on at the moment in medicine. This is a recognition that the zillions of apparently non-pathogenic bacteria on and in human bodies, hitherto largely ignored, are actually important for people’s health. They may even help to explain the development of some mysterious conditions.
Genomicist Lauren Petersen has been racing mountain bikes since she was 14 years old. But throughout her teens she battled chronic Lyme disease, suffering recurring bouts of illness that sometimes kept her off her wheels. “I’d feel like crap for a month or two, and then the antibiotics would make me feel like crap, and then I’d rebound a little bit and be okay for a while,” she recalls. “It was continuous peaks and valleys.”
The fertile microbiome field is gathering more steam in Europe. Swiss pharma contract manufacturer Lonza is joining forces with Denmark’s bioscience firm Chr Hansen in a joint venture, engineered to enable a supply chain for ‘good’ bacterial strains tailored for therapeutic use.