Microbiome Testing

What is the Microbiome?

Our microbes outnumber human cells 10:1. Like the rainforest, the healthy human microbiome is a balanced ecosystem.

Microbes perform essential functions such as digesting food and synthesizing vitamins. Studies have also linked the microbiome to human mood and behavior, as well as gut health, human development, and metabolic disorders.

Here’s how it works

Sample Your Microbiomes

Our sample kit contains everything you need to swab and submit your microbiome. Whether for your mouth, ears, nose, gut, or genitals, your kit will allow you to learn more about your microbiome.  You swipe the sample swab across the corresponding site and send the kit back to us.

Answer a Simple Survey

Our online survey lets you ask and answer questions about your health and lifestyle. Then, you can see how you correlate with others. We tell you how you correlate to other users, to existing peer-reviewed studies, and to your previous samples.

We Get Up Close and Personal With Your Samples

We checj microbiome sequencing service that provides information and tools for you to explore your microbiome. Based on research from the NIH Human Microbiome Project, we’ve perfected the technology to perform large-scale microbiome studies. Once we receive your sample, it goes in the lab and the magic happens:

What Happens in the Lab:

Sequence

We extract the bacterial DNA out of the sample you’ve sent us. We identify each of the bacteria that the DNA came from. It’s a little like dusting a scene for fingerprints.

Analyze

We compare the ‘fingerprints’ we find to our reference library, to determine which bacteria they came from.

Compile Your Results

We make your results easy to understand. You can compare your graphs to those of other groups: vegetarians, people on antibiotics etc.

Learn From Your Results

Your personalize MicroBiome web account provides secure and easy access to your information. You will be able to design your own experiments. Find out how you compare to the healthy, vegans, paleo, overweight, heavy drinkers. Even how you compare to yourself over time!

The Microbiome

There is a wealth of evidence that the human microbiome has profound consequences for our health. It has been correlated with a wide range of health conditions, from obesity, heart health, and IBD to autism, anxiety, and depression. Working together with our collaborators and crowd scientists we hope to advance human understanding of this emerging area.

Scientific Structures

The vast majority of individuals whose health is affected by scientific breakthrough aren’t part of the process of discovery.

To play a direct role in any kind of research or enquiry requires significant training, time and the financial backing to do so. The current paradigm inevitably reserves the asking of scientific questions for professional scientists. As a direct result, institutional agendas often overpower patient goals.

The Microbiome

There is a wealth of evidence that the human microbiome has profound consequences for our health. It has been correlated with a wide range of health conditions, from obesity, heart health, and IBD to autism, anxiety, and depression. Working together with our collaborators and crowd scientists we hope to advance human understanding of this emerging area.

Scientific Structures

The vast majority of individuals whose health is affected by scientific breakthrough aren’t part of the process of discovery.

To play a direct role in any kind of research or enquiry requires significant training, time and the financial backing to do so. The current paradigm inevitably reserves the asking of scientific questions for professional scientists. As a direct result, institutional agendas often overpower patient goals.

Global Endeavors

To get a better understanding of the microbiome, research needs to be done around the world and not just among the populations of developed countries

uBiome also intends to support a number of studies in the coming year, including a subsidized study of low-income families, to examine the effect that poverty can have on the health of those most in need.

Crowd Science

We believe everyone should be able to explore their microbiome and discover how it is influenced by health and lifestyle. Everyone can learn about the bacteria that live on and in their bodies.

We want to equip people with the tools to create their own scientific studies. We believe in the power of citizen science.

Money and the Microbiome: How Wealth Affects Gut Bacteria

Remarkable findings on socioeconomic status and the microbiome

You are what you eat” is an expression popularized in the 1930s by Chicago weight-loss pioneer Dr. Victor Lindlahr, who hosted a popular radio show about nutrition.

Incidentally, he championed what he called “The Catabolic Diet”, catabolic foods being items your body requires more calories to digest than are contained within the food itself.

An apple, for example, contains around 90 calories, but metabolizing it uses around 180 calories, so in theory eating an apple actually burns off about 90 calories.

In theory.

Of course, in the 1930s little was known about the human microbiome, but “you are what you eat” certainly holds a substantial amount of truth when it comes to your gut bacteria.

In 2009 researchers based at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri ran a mind-boggling experiment in which previously germ-free mice were turned into tiny, living models of human gastroenterology after receiving transplants of human fecal matter.

What do you think happened to these rodents’ microbiota when they were switched from a low-fat, high-fiber diet to a high-fat, high-sugar regime typical of many in the West?

You possibly won’t be too surprised to learn that the composition of their bacteria changed, but you may be as astounded as me to learn how swiftly this happened.

It took just a day.

Thinking about the effects of diet on the microbiome got me wondering about how gut flora might vary with socioeconomic status, which in turn led to some fascinating reading.

Around the world, lower socioeconomic status is generally associated with higher mortality, an effect experts say is mainly due to factors such as higher tobacco use, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition.

But does poor nutrition equate to an unhealthy microbiome?

Well, the answer isn’t quite as clear-cut as you might imagine.

Let’s turn first to a 2015 study by scientists at the International Medical University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who examined three groups of adolescent schoolchildren – one consisting of Malays, another of Chinese, and a third from a tribe called the Orang Asli.

Of these three groups, the Chinese children had the wealthiest parents, while many of the Orang Asli kids’ families lived below the poverty line and were socially marginalized.

One factor that interested the researchers was bacterial diversity: how many species of bacteria were found in the gut?

In general terms, high diversity is healthy, while low diversity can be associated with inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic disorders, and obesity.

So guess whose guts had the highest diversity?

Actually it was the economically deprived Orang Asli children, while the relatively wealthy Chinese kids had the lowest diversity.

The Chinese children had homes that were in general spotless when compared to the places the Orang Asli kids lived in, leading the scientists to conclude that “too much” hygiene could lead to a depleted microbiome.

Fascinating results from a reasonably small number of study participants, fairly typical of scientific research projects.

But let’s now turn to a rather bigger – and pretty awesome – study involving a few more participants.

Yup, the entire population of Denmark.

5.3 million people, to be precise.

Between 1993 and 2004 researchers followed every person in the country, and thanks to a system where bacterial gastrointestinal infections must by law be notified to the authorities, the scientists could track gut disease and then, remarkably, cross-tabulate this with socioeconomic status.

In another counter-intuitive finding, being better-off in Denmark makes you more, not less, likely to suffer from gut infections, particularly Campylobacter, Shigella, and Salmonella.

Research suggests that this may be due to wealthier people eating more “adventurous” food and traveling more widely.

However, lest we conclude from all this that low socioeconomic status is the gateway to a healthy microbiome, let’s be clear that it almost certainly isn’t.

Helicobacter pylori is a distinctly unpleasant bacterium described by Cairo University researchers in 2010 as a “poor man’s gut pathogen”.

H. pylori can play a disturbing role in gastric diseases and cancer.

But at the age of five, less than 5% of U.S. children are infected by it.

By contrast, 50% of under-fives in developing countries are infected, largely because of poor hygiene.

The Cairo University researchers went on to label H. pylori “a chronic colonizer of half the human race”, with serious implications for those in developing countries who could ironically find newly-extended lifespans placing them at high risk of serious gastric conditions, even cancer.

If you’re a regular reader of my Monday emails, you’ll know we generally like to close on a lighter note, but that’s rightly not feasible today.

Serious bacterial infection?

It’s no laughing matter.

The Secrets of the 5,000 Year Old Microbiome

What scientists are learning from the bacterial DNA of ancient humans.

If you take a trip to New Zealand you should be grateful you won’t bump into a moa.

You see, the moa – a type of flightless bird – has been extinct for about 700 years, but meeting one would have been a pretty scary encounter.

Moas weighed more than 500 pounds and stood over 12 feet tall, which is one and a half times as big as that other celebrated Big Bird.

It was through examination of the fossilised remains of the moa, though, that researchers at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA were able to estimate how long DNA is likely to last.

Apparently DNA has a half-life of 521 years (I know, pretty exact, right?) which suggests that under ideal conditions it would be 6.8 million years before the DNA bonds in a sample are all completely destroyed.

This can come in extraordinarily handy as it means that when scientists are let loose on ancient human specimens, they can do some amazing things with sequencing.

Take for example the fascinating case of the University of Copenhagen researchers who examined human bones from Europe and Asia, ranging in age from 3,000 to 5,000 years old.

When you look for human DNA in a sample, you start by retrieving all the DNA, most of which is actually not human, being made up of genetic information from microorganisms (that’s right, the microbiome).

But instead of just chucking out the non-human stuff, the Danish researchers decided to look instead at the bacterial DNA, among which, to their surprise, they found pathogens.

This led them to study the calcified plaque on human teeth up to 5,000 years old, from which they were able to extract the plague bacterium Yersinia pestis.

Historically, of course, the plague has been deadly.

It killed roughly a third of the European population during the 14th century’s Black Death.

Before that, the earliest known incidence of Yersinia pestis had been in the 6th century during the Plague of Justinian, a terrible pandemic that killed over 25 million people in the Eastern Roman Empire.

Suddenly, though, analysis of the ancient microbiome placed the presence of Yersinia pestis thousands of years earlier.

Prehistoric microbiomes have been in the news recently after scientists in Italy re-examined the 5,300-year-old mummified body of Ötzi the Iceman, originally accidentally discovered by a pair of hikers in the eastern Italian Alps.

Remarkably it was possible to sequence Ötzi’s gut bacteria, which were found to contain Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium which infects around half the population and occasionally causes stomach ulcers.

Now, the type of Helicobacter pylori carried by most present-day Europeans is a hybrid of two ancient strains.

One originated in Africa, the other in Eurasia, and it had previously been supposed that the hybridization occurred about 2,000 years ago.

But Ötzi’s stomach only contained the Eurasian strain, so once again it became necessary to revise hypotheses.

It’s now thought that the African strain was carried to Europe by the first farmers, who migrated from the Middle East starting around 8,000 years ago.

Scientists can extract historic microbial DNA from all kinds of sources.

As we’ve seen, the Italians used a mummified stomach. The Danes used teeth.

But a 2012 team from the University of Oklahoma used coprolites, which are essentially fossilised feces.

Now coprolites are a fascinating concept.

Depending on how regular you are, every day you pull the handle to dispatch your waste into the sewers, thinking little of it I’m sure.

But imagine just one of your “specimens” going on to be turned into stone, then poked and prodded by lab technicians thousands of years later.

3,400 years later in the case of the University of Oklahoma scientists, who were incredibly able to deduce that one of their pieces of petrified poop almost certainly came from a child.

It contained a bacterium generally only present when an infant has been breastfed.

Have a great week!

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