HOW A GUT DNA TEST WORKS

Sunday Tasmanian - - Body+soul Health -

Gut mi­cro­biome se­quenc­ing tests cost any­where from $150-$400. Com­pa­nies send out home stool-col­lec­tion kits by post (uBiome and Mi­croba tests can be done in Aus­tralia; DayTwo is cur­rently only avail­able in the US and Is­rael, but is ex­pand­ing glob­ally soon). They then se­quence the DNA, be­fore us­ing metage­nomics to de­code the mi­cro­bial species present.

uBiome gives cus­tomers a sim­ple read-out of the mi­crobes de­tected, along with in­for­ma­tion about what they do in­side your body. DayTwo and Mi­croba pro­vide per­son­alised di­etary ad­vice based on the mi­crobes they find. DayTwo says it can iden­tify foods that will help con­trol blood sugar and thus pro­tect against di­a­betes, obe­sity and heart dis­ease.

To of­fer this ad­vice, the firm utilises an al­go­rithm de­vel­oped by Weiz­mann re­searchers. Us­ing data from 800 peo­ple, the re­searchers trained a ma­chine-learn­ing al­go­rithm to pre­dict the best blood-sugar- low­er­ing di­ets for each in­di­vid­ual based on their set of gut mi­crobes. They then val­i­dated th­ese results in a fol­low-up trial of 26 peo­ple.

Mi­croba takes a broader ap­proach. It of­fers di­etary ad­vice to boost 17 types of bac­te­ria as­so­ci­ated with re­duced risks of de­vel­op­ing a range of dis­eases. For ex­am­ple, it mea­sures the lev­els of fae­cal­ibac­terium praus­nitzii, which is thought to pro­tect against bowel can­cer and in­flam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease. If cus­tomers have be­low-aver­age lev­els, the com­pany rec­om­mends eat­ing blue­ber­ries, wa­ter­melon, as­para­gus, broc­coli and other foods that pro­mote the bac­te­ria’s growth.

But it’s un­clear whether this will ac­tu­ally make much dif­fer­ence to your health. “It’s a good start, but there are thou­sands of other bac­te­ria in our gut as well and we’re only just be­gin­ning to un­der­stand which ones are im­por­tant and how they work to­gether,” says Lough­man.

Mi­croba hasn’t con­ducted clin­i­cal tri­als to val­i­date its di­etary rec­om­men­da­tions yet. “At the mo­ment, the test should mainly be treated like a neat in­for­ma­tional tool. We’re not at the point where we can di­ag­nose or treat dis­ease,” says Alena Pribyl, one of the com­pany’s bi­ol­o­gists.

Pribyl says Mi­croba’s ser­vices help peo­ple by ex­plain­ing why they should be eat­ing cer­tain foods. “We’re all told to eat more fruit and veg­eta­bles, but we don’t know why and so most of us don’t,” she says. “If you know that eat­ing blue­ber­ries will pro­mote the ex­act bac­te­ria that you’re de­fi­cient in and po­ten­tially pro­tect against dis­ease, that might be more mo­ti­vat­ing.”

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