As gut microbiota can impact human metabolism and immune function, it has been proposed as a possible determinant of healthy ageing. A recent study, led by Dr. Marco Candela from the Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology at University of Bologna, has constructed the longest available picture of the microbiota trajectory across different age groups.


In order to study the relationship between the gut microbiota and ageing, faecal samples from semi-supercentenarians (105-109 years old, n = 24), centenarians (99-104 years old, n = 15), younger elderly (65-75 years old, n = 15), and young adults (22-48 years old, n = 15) were analyzed for the study. All groups came from the same geographic area in Emilia Romagna (Italy).


The faecal microbiota in all age groups was dominated by Bacteroidaceae, Lachnospiraceae, and Ruminococcaceae, but their relative abundance decreased with ageing. On the whole, a core microbiota accompanies human life and there is a decrease in abundance of certain bacterial species with ageing. Ageing-associated gut microbiota is characterized by an increasing contribution of subdominant species that is maintained in centenarians and semi-supercentenarians. Interestingly, semi-supercentenarians showed enrichment in health-associated gut bacteria such as Akkermansia, Bifidobacterium, and Christensenellaceae (an effect termed “longevity adaptation”) that might be involved in extreme ageing.


In order to achieve extreme longevity, it has been suggested that modulation of the microbiota-gut-brain axis could be targeted. Several associations have been identified between host frailty and gut microbiota diversity. In this context, a recent randomized double-blind clinical trial, led by Dr. Omar Cauli from the University of Valencia (Spain), has reported that administration of a prebiotic formulation compared with placebo significantly improved exhaustion and handgrip strength, which are considered two frailty criteria. More intervention studies are needed in order to verify new gut microbiota-targeted approaches for improving longevity.


To sum up, a core gut microbiota accompanies human life, with a subdominant variable fraction that appears to adapt with ageing. In centenarians and semi-supercentenarians, several health-associated gut bacteria are boosted. These novel findings suggest that gut microbiota could contribute to an extremely long life-span.




Biagi E, Franceschi C, Rampelli S, et al. Gut microbiota and extreme longevity. Curr Biol. 2016; 26(11):1480-5. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.04.016.

Buigues C, Fernández-Garrido J, Pruimboom L, et al. Effect of a prebiotic formulation on frailty syndrome: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial. Int J Mol Sci. 2016; 17(6). doi:10.3390/ijms17060932.