The Rugby Microbiome Team

By Wiley Barton, APC PhD student



APC scientists have taken our research on the microbiome of professional rugby players to a whole new league.


Together with collaborators at Imperial College London, we have shown that the gut microbiome of professional athletes is distinct from that of the general public both functionally (i.e., what they do) and metabolically (i.e., what they produce).


In particular, we found that an athlete’s microbiome is primed for tissue repair and to harness energy from the diet, reflecting the significant energy demands and high cell-turnover evident in elite sport. Thus, the state of physical fitness is not limited to the athlete alone; it appears to also include conditioning of the microbiota.


Previously we found that the gut microbes of professional rugby players differed considerably from that of healthy controls. The research, which involved 40 rugby players on the Irish squad, suggested links between diet and exercise and the diversity of microbes in the gut.


Wiley Barton, Nicholas C. Penney, Owen Cronin, Isabel Garcia Perez, Michael G. Molloy, Elaine Holmes, Fergus Shanahan, Paul D. Cotter, Orla O’Sullivan (2017) ‘The microbiome of professional athletes differs from that of sedentary subjects not only in composition but particularly at the functional metabolic level’ Gut

Photo (left to right): Dr Paul Cotter, APC Microbiome Institute and Head of Department, Food Biosciences, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Dr Orla O’Sullivan, APC Microbiome Institute, Teagasc and Mr Wiley Barton, PhD student APC Microbiome Institute, Teagasc and first author on the Gut paper.

Press Release