The American Gut Project
The Understanding of Microbial Diversity
Under the auspices of the Human Food Project, the American Gut Project is analyzing 10,000 samples of gut bacteria (along with oral, skin and vaginal bacteria) from 6,000 people around the world. It is the largest open-source science project to understand the microbial diversity of people around the world.
You can participate. Send a $99 donation to the project and they’ll send you a home sampling kit so you can collect swabs. In return, they’ll sequence your bacteria, send you a list of the bacteria in your samples and their relative abundance. You’ll get to see how your own microbiome compares to others and how your diet and lifestyle may be shaping your gut flora, which in turn influences almost every aspect of your health. The project scientists rightly describe the study as the “Anthropology of Microbes”.
The importance of the project is clear. With this global information, we’ll learn more about the relationship between our health, diet and environment. It might also be possible to develop biomarkers to predict aspects of our gut health based on a spit sample or a swab from a palm. For example, it’s known that arterial plaque has microbes in common with the mouth but not with the gut. Perhaps dental plaque in the future will be used to look at our heart health.
You can read more about the American Gut Project and join it at http://americangut.org/.