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Bacteria that normally live in the human intestinal tract appear to be able to order the kinds of foods they want from the cells lining the intestine, a Washington University study has found.

More than 400 species of bacteria live in the intestine, making vitamins and performing other jobs for their human hosts. They also play a role in keeping out disease-causing bacteria. As their reward they get to send a chemical message to intestinal cells telling them to make their favorite food. The first of these to be studied ordered cells to make fucose, a sugar.

"These results provide insights about how we adapt to a microbial world and how microbes, in turn, may create a niche for themselves within a very complicated, dynamic and open ecological system," Dr. Jeffrey I. Gordon reported in the journal Science.

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