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Keywords:

  • faecal bacteria;
  • 16S rRNA;
  • correlation network;
  • within-individual variation

Abstract

In the last decade, an extensive effort has been made to characterize the human intestinal microbiota by means of SSU rRNA gene sequence and metagenomic analysis. Relatively few studies have followed intestinal bacterial communities over time to assess their stability in the absence of perturbation. In this study, we have monitored the faecal bacteria of three healthy subjects during 15 consecutive days. The global community structure was analysed through SSU rRNA gene sequencing. In agreement with previous studies, we found that the between-subject variation in community structure was larger than within. The composition was fairly stable throughout, although daily fluctuations were detected for all genera and phylotypes at 97% of sequence identity. While the core shared between subjects was very small, each subject harboured a stable high-abundance core composed of a small number of bacterial groups (9% of the phylotypes accounted for between 74% and 93% of the sequences). This may suggest that studies aimed at linking the microbiota composition with disease risk should be limited to the numerically most dominant phylotypes, as the rest appears transient. Networks of potential interactions between co-occurring genera were also subject-specific, even for the same bacterial genus, which might be reflecting host-specific selective pressures and historic events.