The gut microbiota has become a new player in the onset and development of metabolic syndrome and its associated pathologies. One gut bacterium that has been positively associated with leanness in mice and humans is Akkermansia muciniphila, which is naturally present in the gut microbiota of healthy people. I have a very special story to tell you about this unique bacteria…
The history of Akkermansia takes us back to 12 years ago! In 2007, our lab discovered that mice fed with a diet enriched in saturated fatty acids were characterized by a profound modification of the gut microbiota (Cani et al Diabetes 2007). This seminal study was the first showing an impact of diet-induced obesity on the composition of the gut microbiota.
Strikingly, by using high throughput sequencing methods we serendipitously found that prebiotic feeding was induced a profound change of the microbiota composition, with several dozen of microbes affected, and among them Akkermansia muciniphila was increased by about 100-fold. In the same series of experiments, we found that Akkermansia muciniphila was dramatically decreased in the gut of diet-induced obese and type 2 diabetic mice as well as in genetic obese mice (ob/ob).
After this observation, we also found in human similar data, that is an inverse relationship between the abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila and the body weight, the fat mass, and the blood glucose levels. In other words, Akkermansia muciniphila was less abundant in the gut of overweight, obese and type 2 diabetes subjects (for review: Cani and de Vos, 2017). But these findings were not the causal proof that the administration of Akkermansia muciniphila can indeed mitigate body weight gain or glucose metabolism!