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The term microbiome describes the community of microorganisms which are living together in a habitat. In the context of personal science, the human microbiome is of interest, which can describe the communities of bacteria that are found in habits such as the gut, the mouth or the skin. Beyond a pure academic interest, the human microbiome is also linked to health and well-being, e.g. the gut microbiome has been linked to use of probiotics and prebiotics[1].

Microbiome Testing[edit | edit source]

The rapidly plummeting costs for gene sequencing have made microbiome tests now cheap enough for regular self-testing. Broadly speaking, there are two major technologies commonly used in direct-to-consumer tests:

  1. 16S testing, so-called because it involves sequencing the 16S rRNA gene that is common to all bacteria and can be used to identify them to some level of accuracy. As it sequences only a portion of the microbial genome, it is much cheaper and prices can be as low as US$20. This comes with a tradeoff in precision. In particular, 16S techniques are generally accurate only to the genus level of bacteria.
  2. metagenome genome sequencing, which sequences all microbial genes and is much more accurate, able to distinguish among different bacterial strains. As it requires more data, this technology is typically more expensive, with prices generally start at US$200.

There are a number of microbiome testing companies that offer Direct-To-Consumer testing, these include:

References[edit | edit source]