Senior Research Fellow
Dr. Petra Louis
Gut Health Theme
The Rowett Institute
University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen AB25 2ZD
Petra Louis is a molecular microbiologist with an interest in the human gut microbiota, diet and health. She obtained her Diploma in Biology and PhD in Microbiology from the University of Bonn, Germany, where she conducted research on osmoadaptation in halophilic bacteria. She undertook post-doctoral research at the University of Aberdeen on stress responses in Escherichia coli and on RNA secondary structure melting during translation in yeast, before taking up a position as principal investigator at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen in 2002.
Her research concentrates on the metabolism of the microbial community that inhabits the human intestine and how it can be modulated by diet to improve human health, with a particular emphasis on short-chain fatty acid production from dietary non-digestible carbohydrates. She utilises are wide range of technical approaches, including strictly anaerobic microbiology, molecular microbial community analysis, -omics technologies and mathematical modelling, to investigate which microbes are instrumental for primary fibre degradation and how different microbial community members interact with each other during fibre breakdown and fermentation product formation. Her work contributes to the development of effective and personalised nutritional strategies to improve human health via actions of the gut microbiota.
- Diploma Biology1992 - University of Bonn, Germany
- PhD Microbiology1996 - Univesity of Bonn, Germany
Prizes and Awards
PhD thesis award of the German Society for General and Applied Microbiology (VAAM) 1996
Clarivate (Web of Science) highly cited researcher: 2018-2022
The microbial community in the human large intestine consists of a diverse range of bacteria that break down complex nutrients of dietary and host origin. The members of this ecosystem form a complex metabolic network in which the product of one group can serve as substrate for another group. Overall, this leads to the accumulation of mainly three organic acids, acetate, propionate and butyrate, which are partially absorbed by the colon and serve as an additional energy source for the human host. Butyrate is of special interest, as it serves as the preferred energy source for the colonic wall and thus contributes to the proper functioning of the gut. It has also been claimed to be protective against colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease through effects on host gene expression and cellular development of the colon. Propionate also influences host physiology and its potential effects on host satiety is of particular interest in view of the current obesity epidemic.
Dietary intakes can influence the microbial gut community and shift the balance between different functional bacterial groups, with potential consequences for host health. Our research concentrates on the microbial metabolism of dietary non-digestible carbohydrates, with a particular emphasis on short-chain fatty acid production. We utilise are wide range of technical approaches, including strictly anaerobic microbiology of pure strains and mixed microbial consortia, molecular microbial community analysis of in vitro and human dietary studies, -omics technologies, enzymology and mathematical modelling.
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Beyond purified dietary fibre supplements: compositional variation between cell wall fibre from different plants influences human faecal microbiota activity and growth in vitroEnvironmental MicrobiologyContributions to Journals: Articles
Habitual consumption of high-fibre bread fortified with bean hulls increased plasma indole-3-propionic concentration and decreased putrescine and deoxycholic acid faecal concentrations in healthy volunteersBritish Journal of Nutrition, pp. 1-36Contributions to Journals: Articles
- [ONLINE] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114523000491
- [ONLINE] View publication in Scopus
Process-based modelling of Microbial community dynamics in the human colonJournal of the Royal Society Interface, vol. 19, no. 195, 20220489Contributions to Journals: Articles
Microbial lactate utilisation and the stability of the gut microbiomeGut Microbiome, vol. 3, e3Contributions to Journals: Articles
Long-term personalized low FODMAP diet improves symptoms and maintains luminal Bifidobacteria abundance in irritable bowel syndromeNeurogastroenterology and Motility, vol. 34, no. 4, e14241Contributions to Journals: Articles
Higher total faecal short chain fatty concentrations correlate with increasing proportions of butyrate and decreasing proportions of branched chain fatty acids across multiple human studiesGut Microbiome, vol. 3, e2Contributions to Journals: Articles
Distribution, organization and expression of genes concerned with anaerobic lactate utilization in human intestinal bacteriaMicrobial GenomicsContributions to Journals: Articles
- [ONLINE] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1099/mgen.0.000739
Immune Responsiveness to LPS Determines Risk of Childhood Wheeze and Asthma in 17q21 Risk Allele CarriersAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, vol. 205, no. 6, pp. 641-650Contributions to Journals: Articles
- [ONLINE] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.202106-1458OC
- [ONLINE] View publication in Scopus
Dietary fibre complexity and its influence on functional groups of the human gut microbiotaProceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 80, no. 4, pp. 386–397Contributions to Journals: Articles
Prebiotic fructans have greater impact on luminal microbiology and CD3+ T cells in healthy siblings than patients with Crohn’s disease: a pilot study investigating the potential for primary prevention of inflammatory bowel diseaseClinical Nutrition, vol. 40, no. 8, pp. 5009-5019Contributions to Journals: Articles