The DairyCultures project is examining how bacteria closely connect humans, animals, their food and their shared environment. While dairy foods are an important dietary component for Mongolians, lactose malabsorption (poor digestion of the milk sugar lactose) is believed to be highly prevalent, similar to other East Asian populations. However, recently the foods that people eat and the composition and function of the gut microbiome (the bacterial ecosystem found in the human gut) have been shown to be linked. Microbial adaptation – through culinary manipulation and gut microbiome alteration – is therefore likely to play an important role in the digestion of this important dietary staple.

The DairyCultures project will test the link between the consumption of dairy foods and the gut microbiome by collecting data from:

  • Human gut microbiome samples from urban and rural households in Mongolia,
  • Lactase persistence genotypes and lactose digestion phenotypes,
  • Household microbiome samples, including swabs of cooking tools, floors and surfaces,
  • Microbiome samples from dairy livestock, including dung and swabs of skin/fur.

This will enable an understanding of the integration of microbes in food and in the home, as well as the shared microbial ecosystems between humans, animals and their environments.

  • Microorganisms are vital in the creation of Mongolian dairy products. Here a yogurt starter made from yak, goat and sheep milk is being prepared