A WHO Report states that Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases, cancer, and diabetes, now account for 71% of deaths annually. This marks a sharp shift from a 100 years ago when Transmissible or Communicable Diseases (CDs) such as flu, Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and Ebola were more prevalent and life-threatening. A person’s microbiota or microbiome houses bacteria, fungi, and viruses found on and in our bodies. Infected microbes can transfer from one person’s microbiota into another’s, thus playing a major role in spreading Communicable Diseases. NCDs, on the other hand, are believed to be non-contagious and non-infectious. A new research paper published in Science is questioning the widely accepted notion by blurring the lines between the two categories.

Fellows of the Humans & the Microbiome program at CIFAR believe that if proven correct, their hypothesis will “rewrite the entire book of public health”. The researchers establish a connection between NCDs (mainly, heart attacks and strokes) and a person’s gut microbiota through evidence collection from existing data on gut bacteria. They first state that people with NCDs have altered or impaired microbiota. This impaired microbiota, when transplanted into healthy animals, leads to disease. The next line of evidence shows that gut bacteria is transferable between cohabitants, spouses and members in a social group because of shared environment (including diet and lifestyle).

The paper, however, calls for in-depth study of a disease to understand the effects of microbes. Since the paper primarily draws upon obesity and inflammatory-bowel diseases that are risk factors of NCDs like cardiovascular diseases, more evidence-based research is needed to determine microbes’ role in causing Non-Communicable Diseases directly. It is also worth considering that microbiota are found all over the human body – do they also contribute to the spread of diseases that were previously thought to be non-communicable?

 

Managing Correspondent: Rhea Grover

Original science article: Are noncommunicable diseases communicable? on Science

Original press article: “Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes may be communicable” on Medical Xpress

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