This study monitored the dynamics and diversity of the human faecal ‘ cluster’ over a 3-month period using a polyphasic approach. Fresh faecal samples were collected fortnightly from 13 healthy donors (six males and seven females) aged between 26 and 61 years. FISH was used to enumerate total (EUB338mix) and ‘ cluster’ (ATO291) bacteria, with counts ranging between 1.12×10 and 9.95×10, and 1.03×10 and 1.16×10 cells (g dry weight faeces), respectively. The ‘ cluster’ population represented 0.2–22 % of the total bacteria, with proportions donor-dependent. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) using ‘ cluster’-specific primers demonstrated faecal populations of these bacteria were relatively stable, with bands identified as , /, , sp. PEAV3-3, , , , and in the DGGE profiles of individuals. Colony PCR was used to identify ‘ cluster’ bacteria isolated from faeces ( = 224 isolates). 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis of isolates demonstrated represented the predominant (88 % of isolates) member of the ‘ cluster’ found in human faeces, being found in nine individuals. was identified in three individuals (3.6 % of isolates). Isolates of , an ‘’ sp. and representatives of novel species belonging to the ‘ cluster’ were also identified in the study. Phenotypic characterization of the isolates demonstrated their highly saccharolytic nature and heterogeneous phenotypic profiles, and 97 % of the isolates displayed lipase activity.


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