The gut health of chimpanzees in Rwanda will be the focus of a new study.
The gut health of chimpanzees in Rwanda will be the focus of a new study. JGI/Fernando Turmo

Chimps' diet may provide key to combat diseases

A NEW study of our closest genetic relative, the chimpanzee, could unlock the risk of obesity and autism.

The University of Western Australia study will focus on the gut health of the primates. PhD student Natasha Coutts will travel to Rwanda to research how the bacteria in chimpanzees' stomachs are impacted by habitat degradation.

Gut bacteria plays an important role in digestion and aids the production of Vitamins B and K. It can also influence the risk of diseases such as obesity, Crohn's disease, asthma and even autism. Ms Coutts said understanding the gut health of chimps could have implications on how we understand it in humans.

"Humans and chimpanzees are so closely related that it's highly likely the results from this research will be applicable to questions surrounding the human gut microbiome (bacteria) as well,” Ms Coutts said.

Habitat fragmentation has been shown to decrease plant biodiversity and the study will compare how this affects the gut bacteria of the eastern chimpanzees.



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