The Batwa Pygmies, also known as Twa, are believed to be the original inhabitants of the equatorial forests of the Great Lakes region of Central Africa. They live in southwestern Uganda, northern and southern Rwanda and in many areas of the Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). An interersting feature of the Batwa is that they differ significantly from neighboring Bantu agriculturalists in having fewer caries lesions and reduced tooth loss. Differences in diet and lifestyle provide the most likely explanation for the greater prevalence of caries lesions and tooth loss among the Bantu than among the Batwa. The Batwa have less access to highly cariogenic, refined carbohydrates than do the Bantu. In addition, because of their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the diet of the Batwa tends to be higher in animal protein than that of the Bantu, and this would also contribute to a lower caries rate.
It is also possible that the oral microbiome of the Batwa may either influence, or be influenced by, the lower prevalence of caries.To investigate this further, researchers analyzed the saliva microbiome diversity of the Batwa in comparison with agricultural groups from similar enviroments in Africa, in order to address the following questions:
- How different is the Batwa saliva microbiome from that of African agriculturalists
- Is the low level of dental caries in the Batwa associated with particular microbial taxa?
High Diversity of the Saliva Microbiome in Batwa Pygmies. 2011 PLoS ONE 6(8): e23352. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023352
We describe the saliva microbiome diversity in Batwa Pygmies, a former hunter-gatherer group from Uganda, using next-generation sequencing of partial 16S rRNA sequences. Microbial community diversity in the Batwa is significantly higher than in agricultural groups from Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We found 40 microbial genera in the Batwa, which have previously not been described in the human oral cavity. The distinctive composition of the salvia microbiome of the Batwa may have been influenced by their recent different lifestyle and diet.