“Mouse microbes may make scientific studies harder to replicate”

“An explosion of recent studies in both animals and people suggests that resident microbes can influence susceptibility to diseases from HIV to asthma, predispose to obesity across generations, and tinker with how the body responds to drugs. Tying such effects to experimental results is challenging, but some hints have cropped up. In one early example, more than a decade ago, a research team at Pfizer detected an odd change in rats’ urine: a sudden shift in the relative concentrations of two compounds produced when the body breaks down food. The change could muddy toxicology studies that rely on urine metabolites to measure how a drug gets broken down in the body…
Franklin and others suspect that in their zeal to clean up, facilities may have wiped out some of the microbial complexity that makes mice useful models for human disease. Variations in the \u2028microbiome may skew results, but a diverse \u2028microbiome and exposure to microbes may be critical for some studies.
Earlier this year, a team led by immunologist David Masopust of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, tried cohousing lab mice with mice purchased from pet stores. The “dirty” visitors harbored diseases long eradicated from most labs, such as hepatitis and pneumonia. The sudden exposure to these disease-ridden cagemates killed nearly a quarter of the colony, but the survivors began producing a subset of the memory T cells key to fighting infection. They became, the authors argued, a more realistic model of the human immune system.”

I’m very here for this, I have a lot of questions about lab mice… They have been kept in these extremely artificial environments for generation upon generation upon generation and there are all these ways in which they are biologically very weird — and also, all these ways in which they vary when they aren’t supposed to.

But specifically on the gut microbe thing, now mouse habitat rooms often have a sentinel mouse who lives on bedding that’s mixed with dirty bedding from other cages, and then that mouse can be tested for any weird gut microbes.

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