Microbial cells in the human body outnumber human cells by about ten to one. The National Institute of Health established the five-year, $173-million Common Fund Human Microbiome Project (HMP) to characterize human microbiota and analyze their roles in human health.
Trillions of microbes live on and in human bodies. Communities of them are called microbiomes. They perform essential functions like food digestion, vitamin synthesization and are linked to gut health, development, mood and behavior, and metabolism. In the gut they maintain the gastrointestinal tract mucosal lining, protect against pathogens, and aid the body in harvesting calories and digesting fiber. An excess or lack of certain bacteria can result in inflammation which is a key factor in chronic disease.
Collecting data from individuals in samples of their particular types of microbes and then from questions they answer on their diet and lifestyle will build a database for studies. It is hoped that it will determine which microbe combinations work together to keep humans healthy and which are linked to problems such as diabetes and obesity, cancer or irritable bowel diseases.
Some other projects build on the Human Microbiome Project. The American Gut Project’s goal is enrolling 10,000 people in the United States along with their dogs and cats. Humans share bacteria with their pets. The uBiome is aiming for enrolling about 2,000 people globally.
For example, the uBiome sample kit contains what is needed to swab and submit a microbiome to them. It can be from the mouth, ears, nose, gut, or genitals. Swipe the corresponding site and mail the kit back. The lab extracts the bacterial DNA from the sample, identifies each one by comparing it to their reference library. Easy to understand analysis results reveal the organisms in the gut with graphs to compare the microbial ecosystem with other groups. A one-time gut sample costs $89. Add a single sample from one of the other four sites for $$159 or get an all five site kit for $399.
Data from the studies may eventually reveal many microbial effects like:
- Possibly microbes in the female urogenital tract affect prenatal health and birthing healthy babies. Vaginal birth babies absorb different microbes from Cesarean-section birthed babies. Certain infection risk is higher in C-sections.
- Some lasting consequences from taking antibiotics may be found as it alters microbial presence.
- Colds, flu and trauma may induce type2 diabetes in prediabetic humans.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) may be linked to specific gut microbiota through profiling of the gut microbiome.
- Which diet best feeds the entire gut microbial systems.
- The best food to give pets for their health.
- Environmental factors like infection rates in hospitals can be tested.