Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Blue Flamers- Are you a methanogen?

I was ASTOUNDED to hear on this weeks Quirks and Quarks that only 30-50% of humans in the western world are methanogens ie methane producing. More precisely only 30-50% of humans have methanogens in their gut flora and have farts that contain methane. Gut flora refers to the microbes that exist in your lower digestive tract previously discussed on the bayblab of course. These methanogens aren't bacteria they are archaea.
From an old nature review "Faecal Matters":
Accumulation of H2 in the colon lowers the efficiency of microbial fermentation, while removal of H2 enhances microbial growth. There are three main groups of microorganisms that are responsible for H2 removal in the human gut — sulphate-reducing bacteria, acetogenic bacteria and archaeal methanogens. Around 30–50% of people in the Western world are methanogenic yet the human gut is thought to host just two species of methanogenic Archaea, Methanobrevibacter smithii and Methanosphaera stadtmanae.
Methane is the flamable stuff in farts that some dare devils have lit on fire using a lighter at just the right place and the right time. If you are unaware of the science of farts I highly recommend "Facts on Farts".
So unfortunately since only 30-50% of people of the western world have methanogenic archaea only these people can light their farts. This is really ashame as I'm sure there is no experience quite like it. (Caution: Facts on Farts warns of the dangers of 'lighting wind'). This calls for probiotics.


Anonymous Coward said...

The "facts on farts" is a very good resource for everything you've ever wanted to know about farting but were too afraid to ask. for example did you know that:

"If both parents are methane producers, their children have a 95% chance of being producers as well."

"On average, a person produces about half a liter of fart gas per day, distributed over an average of about fourteen daily farts. "

"A survey done by Fartcloud indicates that about a quarter of the people who ignited their farts got burned doing it."

Bayman said...

Isn't methane one of the worst greenhouse gases? These people are polluters! In the interest of preventing global warming I guess that means we need to cure these people or get rid of them altogether.

Bayman said...

On the other hand, high methane producers might be valuable energy resources.

Kurt Klussendorf said...

I got to wondering if this is indeed hereditary or environmental. So methanogenisis is related to gut flora, no? What relation is that to your two parents and heredity? I guess it's more likely environmental, (which you do share with your parents after all). Any definitive answers?

Anonymous said...

Saw this on Mythbusters!!!

Rob said...

From what I understand there is significant flux in the make up of your intestinal flora due to the environment. Also the colonization of your initially sterile gut is obviously environmental. However based on some twin data it looks as if there is definite genetic factors (host genetic factors) involved in the 'average' make up of the adult intestinal flora.