Does Soil Contribute to the Human Gut Microbiome?

Microorganisms. 2019 Aug 23;7(9):287. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms7090287.


Soil and the human gut contain approximately the same number of active microorganisms, while human gut microbiome diversity is only 10% that of soil biodiversity and has decreased dramatically with the modern lifestyle. We tracked relationships between the soil microbiome and the human intestinal microbiome. We propose a novel environmental microbiome hypothesis, which implies that a close linkage between the soil microbiome and the human intestinal microbiome has evolved during evolution and is still developing. From hunter-gatherers to an urbanized society, the human gut has lost alpha diversity. Interestingly, beta diversity has increased, meaning that people in urban areas have more differentiated individual microbiomes. On top of little contact with soil and feces, hygienic measures, antibiotics and a low fiber diet of processed food have led to a loss of beneficial microbes. At the same time, loss of soil biodiversity is observed in many rural areas. The increasing use of agrochemicals, low plant biodiversity and rigorous soil management practices have a negative effect on the biodiversity of crop epiphytes and endophytes. These developments concur with an increase in lifestyle diseases related to the human intestinal microbiome. We point out the interference with the microbial cycle of urban human environments versus pre-industrial rural environments. In order to correct these interferences, it may be useful to adopt a different perspective and to consider the human intestinal microbiome as well as the soil/root microbiome as 'superorganisms' which, by close contact, replenish each other with inoculants, genes and growth-sustaining molecules.

Keywords: global change; gut microbiota; human health; land use; lifestyle; nutrition; organic-agriculture; soil biodiversity; soil microbiology; urbanization.

Publication types

  • Review