The potential of outdoor environments to supply beneficial butyrate-producing bacteria to humans

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Butyrate is an important mediator of human health and disease. The mechanisms of action of butyrate are becoming increasingly well-known. Many commensal bacteria that inhabit the human gut can synthesise butyrate, which is then absorbed into the human host. Simultaneously, several immune- and inflammatory-mediated diseases are being linked to insufficient exposure to beneficial microbes from our environment, including butyrate-producing bacteria. However, the role of outdoor environmental exposure to butyrate-producing bacteria remains poorly understood. Here we review the literature on the human exposure pathways to butyrate-producing bacteria, with a particular focus on outdoor environmental sources (e.g. associated with plants, plant-based residues, and soil), and the health implications of exposure to them. Emerging evidence suggests that environmental butyrate-producers may help supplement the human gut microbiota and represent an important component of the Biodiversity and Old Friends hypotheses. Improving our understanding of potential sources, precursors, and exposure pathways of environmental butyrate-producers that influence the gut microbiota and butyrate production offers promise to advance multiple disciplines of health and environmental science. We outline research priorities to address knowledge gaps in the outdoor environment-butyrate-health nexus and build knowledge of the potential pathways to help optimise exposure to human-beneficial butyrate-producing bacteria from the outdoor environment during childhood and adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146063
Number of pages8
JournalScience of The Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2021


  • Butyrate
  • Butyrate-producing bacteria
  • Ecosystem services
  • Exposure pathways
  • Microbiome
  • Short-chain fatty acids


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