Archaebiotics: proposed therapeutic use of archaea to prevent trimethylaminuria and cardiovascular disease

Gut Microbes. 2014 Jan-Feb;5(1):5-10. doi: 10.4161/gmic.26749. Epub 2013 Oct 31.


Trimethylamine (TMA) is produced by gut bacteria from dietary ingredients. In individuals with a hereditary defect in flavin-containing monooxygenase 3, bacterial TMA production is believed to contribute to the symptoms of trimethylaminuria (TMAU; fish-odor syndrome). Intestinal microbiota TMA metabolism may also modulate atherosclerosis risk by affecting trimethylamine oxide (TMAO) production levels. We propose that reducing TMA formation in the gut by converting it to an inert molecule could be used to prevent or limit these human diseases, while avoiding the major drawbacks of other clinical interventions. Reducing TMA levels by microbiological interventions could also be helpful in some vaginoses. Particular members of a recently discovered group of methanogens, that are variably present in the human gut, are unusual in being apparently restricted to utilizing only methyl compounds including TMA as substrates. We confirmed experimentally that one of these strains tested, Methanomassiliicoccus luminyensis B10, is able to deplete TMA, by reducing it with H 2 for methanogenesis. We therefore suggest that members of this archaeal lineage could be used as treatments for metabolic disorders.

Keywords: L-carnitine; Methanomassiliicoccusspp; TMA; TMAO; archaebiotics; cardiovascular disease (CVD); choline; thermoplasmata-related methanogens; trimethylaminuria (TMAU); vaginosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaea / isolation & purification
  • Archaea / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / microbiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / metabolism
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / microbiology
  • Metabolism, Inborn Errors / prevention & control*
  • Methylamines / metabolism
  • Methylamines / urine*
  • Microbiota
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage*


  • Methylamines
  • trimethylamine

Supplementary concepts

  • Trimethylaminuria