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Geographical separation and ethnic origin influence the human gut microbial composition: a meta-analysis from a Malaysian perspective
Microbial Genomics  (IF5.237),  Pub Date : 2021-08-31, DOI: 10.1099/mgen.0.000619
Jacky Dwiyanto, Qasim Ayub, Sui Mae Lee, Su Chern Foo, Chun Wie Chong and Sadequr Rahman

Ethnicity is consistently reported as a strong determinant of human gut microbiota. However, the bulk of these studies are from Western countries, where microbiota variations are mainly driven by relatively recent migration events. Malaysia is a multicultural society, but differences in gut microbiota persist across ethnicities. We hypothesized that migrant ethnic groups continue to share fundamental gut traits with the population in the country of origin due to shared cultural practices despite subsequent geographical separation. To test this hypothesis, the 16S rRNA gene amplicons from 16 studies comprising three major ethnic groups in Malaysia were analysed, covering 636 Chinese, 248 Indian and 123 Malay individuals from four countries (China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia). A confounder-adjusted permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) detected a significant association between ethnicity and the gut microbiota (PERMANOVA R 2=0.005, pseudo-F=2.643, P=0.001). A sparse partial least squares – discriminant analysis model trained using the gut microbiota of individuals from China, India and Indonesia (representation of Chinese, Indian and Malay ethnic group, respectively) showed a better-than-random performance in classifying Malaysian of Chinese descent, although the performance for Indian and Malay were modest (true prediction rate, Chinese=0.60, Indian=0.49, Malay=0.44). Separately, differential abundance analysis singled out Ligilactobacillus as being elevated in Indians. We postulate that despite the strong influence of geographical factors on the gut microbiota, cultural similarity due to a shared ethnic origin drives the presence of a shared gut microbiota composition. The interplay of these factors will likely depend on the circumstances of particular groups of migrants.