Gut Microbiome Pattern Reflects Healthy Aging and Predicts Extended Survival in Humans

February 26, 2020

The gut microbiome has important effects on human health, yet its importance in human aging remains unclear. Using two independent cohorts comprising 4582 individuals across the adult lifespan we demonstrate that, starting in mid-to-late adulthood, gut microbiomes become increasingly unique with age. This uniqueness pattern is strongly associated with gut microbial amino acid derivatives circulating within the bloodstream, many of which have been previously identified as longevity biomarkers. At the latest stages of human life, two distinct patterns emerge wherein individuals in good health show continued microbial drift toward a unique compositional state, while the same drift is absent in individuals who perform worse on a number of validated health measures. The identified healthy aging pattern is characterized by an overall depletion of core genera found across most humans - primarily a depletion in the nearly ubiquitous genus Bacteroides. Consistently, retaining a high Bacteroides dominance into extreme age, or, equivalently, having a low gut microbiome uniqueness score, predicts decreased survival in a four-year follow-up. Our comprehensive analysis identifies the gut microbiome as a novel component of healthy aging, with important implications for the world’s growing older population.