The Yanomami people, located in the Amazon rainforest of southern Venezuela and northern Brazil, are one of the last indigenous groups in the region who still live by hunter-gathering and small-scale farming. They also have the most diverse gut microbiome of any human community studied so far.
David Good is half Yanomami: his mother is a member of the Irokai-Teri community and his father is from America, where Good was raised. After a life-changing reunion with her mother as an adult in the Amazon, Good is now pursuing a PhD in microbiology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. His research involves studying the Yanomami’s unusual microbiome – the bacteria, viruses and fungi that live on and in our bodies – with a view to developing new treatments for microbiome-associated conditions.
here, he tells new scientist From his work with the Yanomami, to collecting stool samples from family members and getting first-hand experience of their diverse diet – and why he’ll never eat an armadillo again – what we can learn from studying their microbiome Can
Claire Wilson: Do you mind if I ask about your family? How did your parents meet?
David Goode: Sure. My dad was a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University and had been assigned to penetrate the Amazon to study the protein intake of the Yanomami. At the time, in the late 1970s, there was debate as to whether a lack of protein was causing their warping. [The Yanomami have been falsely portrayed by anthropologists as engaging in a great deal of warfare and violence over access to resources.] He fell in love with the Yanomami lifestyle: …