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Development and application of high throughput molecular methods
for studying the human gut microbiota in relation to diet and health

Contract number : QLK1-2000-00108
Contract type : Shared Cost Project
Total cost : € 2.241.834
EC contribution : € 1.580.229
Starting date : 1/01/2001
Duration : 48 Months
Scientific Officer : Jürgen Lucas
Project website :
Prof. Dr Michael Blaut
Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke
Gastrointestinale Mikrobiologie
Arthur-Scheunert-Allee 114-116
14558 Bergholz-Rehbrücke
Tel.: +49-33-20088470
Fax: +49-33-20088407
E-mail: blaut @

The microbial gut ecosystem has a major impact on the health and well-being of humans. Since the makeup and the activity of the gut microflora is highly influenced by diet, the project is designed to better understand the impact of the gastrointestinal microflora on human health and to provide easy-to-use methods for monitoring the gut microflora. Novel methods are to be developed to understand and exploit the nutrition-driven impact of the human gut microflora on health. Since the presently used methods for microflora analysis are time consuming and tedious, high throughput methods for the automated detection of fluorescence-labelled cells based on microscopic image analysis, flow cytometry and DNA arrays will be developed. In situ detection methods for monitoring bacterial gene expression at the cellular level will be developed to monitor the impact of dietary constituents on the transcription of bacterial genes. Samples from human populations will be analysed with the developed methods to identify important factors of microflora development, composition and activity.


The project is aimed at developing, refining, validating and automating the most advanced molecular methods for monitoring human gut flora composition and bacterial gene expression in selected human populations in response to diet and life style. The specific objectives of the project are (1) to improve and facilitate gut microflora monitoring with molecular methods, (2) to understand antagonistic and synergistic interactions of the intestinal microflora in response to nutrition and (3) to find links between major dysfunctions and the intestinal microflora.

(expected) Results and achievements

The project is expected to provide methods that allow the rapid detection of intestinal bacteria and their activities. The application of the developed methods will provide baseline data on the intestinal microflora composition in response to origin and lifestyle. The project will also provide fundamental information on biodiversity and phylogeny of the human gut flora. The obtained data will be used to develop a mechanistic concept for diet induced microflora development and to define the role of the intestinal microflora in disease development. The project thereby contributes to investigate the role and impact of food on physiological function, the development of foods with particular benefits, links between diet and chronic diseases and effective communication with the consumer.

The project will provide technological solutions for the rapid detection of gut microorganisms with a high potential for a wide range of applications. The screening of gut flora composition will be applied in relevant biomedical research areas. It will facilitate the diagnosis of a disturbed microflora and the development of rational therapies based on knowledge of disease mechanism. It will support the development of functional foods aimed at improved gastrointestinal function and other health benefits.


Wageningen University
Laboratory of Microbiology
Department of Biomolecular Sciences
Hesselink van Suchtelenweg 4
PO Box 8033
6703 CT Wageningen
The Netherlands
Bioteknologisk Institut
Department of Molecular Characterisation
Biotechnical Institute
Kogle Allé 2
2970 Hørsholm
Centre de Recherches de Jouy-en-Josas
Unite d'Ecologie et Physiologie du Système Digestif
Domaine de Vilvert
78352 Jouy-en-Josas Cedex
University of Reading
Department of Food Science and Technologie
PO Box 226
RG6 6BZ Reading
United Kingdom
Carl Zeiss Vision GmbH
Zeppelinstraße 4
85399 Halbergmoos
Microscreen B.V.
L. J. Zielstraweg 1
9713 GX Groningen
The Netherlands

Fifth Framework Programme

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