I can't count how many times I have said that understanding the mysteries of the microbiome will unlock the secrets to many physiological and pathophysiological process. The latest example of the microbiome's explanatory power regards the athletic prowess of elite cyclists. In a new unpublished study, that is getting a crapload of press, the microbiomes of elite and amateur cyclists were compared and, not surprisingly, differences were found. Particularly intriguing was the presence of the anaerobic bacteria Prevotella in half of the elite cyclists and none of the amateurs. An archae (Methanobrevibacter archaea) -- a disparate branch of life from eukaryotes (us) and prokayrotes (bacteria) was also more likely to be present.
This study is thought provoking and has many implications and it will be important for this to be thoroughly vetted through the peer-review process -- as studies on rugby players have. It will also be essential to untangle this correlation to try and determine causation -- is the microbiome difference related to the enhanced performance of athlete or the result of their diet, their exercise regimen, their genetics, or some other factor. If the microbiome is causative, poop doping could become a real phenomenon for enhancing athletic prowess (it already has promise in weight management and treatment of Clostridium difficile infection).
Though it's not quite time to follow athletes into the port-a-John, the promise of microbiome research is definitely making poop exponentially more appetizing each day.