Researchers from the Host-Microbiota Interactions Laboratory at the Wellcome Sanger Institute have added 20 strains of bacteria to NCIMB’s reference culture collection, including a number of novel species and genera.

These strains are an exciting addition to the NCIMB collection. The Wellcome Sanger Institute is one of the premier centres of genomic discovery and understanding in the world, and the work that this research group is doing in culturing and isolating gut bacteria is making a significant contribution to the understanding of gut microbiota and its compositional diversity.

Culture collections: preserving genetic diversity for research and industry

When a new strain of bacteria is discovered, culture collections like NCIMB’s play an important role in preserving them and making them available to the scientific community.  Culture collections often specialise in specific categories of organisms and NCIMB Ltd manages the National Collection of Industrial, Food and Marine Bacteria.  However, this culture collection includes a much broader range of organisms than its name might suggest.  At NCIMB, what we look for when we decide to accept a new strain into our collection are type strains of newly discovered environmental bacteria and those that may be environmentally important and/or industrially useful. They can come from all kinds of locations and the strains in our reference collection have been isolated from an eclectic range of environments around the world, including the bathing water of a hippopotamus in a zoo, the skin of a cod and medieval church murals, as well as the human gut.

Depositing in a recognised culture collection is a requirement of the bacteriological code for naming and describing new species of bacteria and the NCIMB reference collection includes thousands of bacteria, plasmids and bacteriophages, along with morphological descriptions, hazard group classification, culture requirements and genomic data. It is an important genetic resource for researchers and industry around the globe.

The importance of the human gut microbiota

In recent years much effort has gone in to raising awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the rate at which it is being diminished, with most public attention focused on plant and animal species rather than bacteria. However, with the recent reporting of topics such as antimicrobial resistance and microbiome research in the mainstream press, things may be beginning to change.  People are starting to understand the importance of microbial diversity to both human health, society and the wider ecosystem.

The mix of bacteria present in the human gut has recently been associated with all kinds of health-related issues including mental health, obesity, the development of food allergies, and the onset of metabolic conditions such as diabetes. There have also been a number of reports on how gut bacteria might be used to treat disease. For example, there is a great deal of interest in the potential of faecal microbiota transplants to treat antibiotic resistant Clostridium difficile infections. 

New strains

As the human gut microbiome is emerging as such an important and interesting area of research, we are delighted that we can make the strains deposited by the Welcome Sanger Institute available to the wider research community.  The new strains deposited in the collection are all strict anaerobes that have been isolated from human faecal samples. They are from a number of different families and genera including Bacteroides, Enterococcus, Escherichia, Propionibacterium, Sarcina, Bifidobacterium, Gordonibacter, Alistipes, Pediococcus, Lactobacillus and Clostridiaceae.

For more information about these strains, or any of NCIMB’s services, contact or visit


Notes for editors

NCIMB Ltd is based in Aberdeen, Scotland. The company has been providing a broad range of scientific products and services to support industry and academia for more than 30 years.  At the heart of the company is the National Collection of Industrial, Food and Marine Bacteria – an internationally recognized reference collection that includes thousands of environmentally and industrially important bacteria. By preserving bacteria and making them available to the research community, both within industry and academia, NCIMB plays an essential, underpinning role in the development and application of microbiological knowledge and understanding. 
In addition to preserving, storing and supplying reference cultures, NCIMB delivers a range of services and works with organisations in the pharmaceutical, personal care, food and drink, oil and gas, environmental services, probiotics, agriculture, biotechnology, and academic sectors. Services provided include DNA sequencing, microbial identification, analytical chemistry, biomaterial storage and contract research services. We provide essential products and service that help our customers protect their business and support innovation.