'The British are slightly less unhealthy than the Americans'

British crowdsourced project maps 2000+ microbiomes (and counting)

'The study is aiming to produce a large-scale collection of anonymised human samples and lifestyle information for medical researchers.' © iStock

A British crowdsourced and funded microbiome project is building data that will accompany a US version as global efforts to build microbiome knowledge mount.

Results to date indicated “the British are slightly less unhealthy than the Americans in terms of gut diversity” British Gut Project leader Tim Spector, told us.

Since the project was launched in October 2014, 2184 people have paid different fees to have their microbiome measured and analysed, in the process raising £222,741 (€282,434).

Contributors can pay either £75 (€95, one person); £125 (€158, two people); £175 (€222, three people) or £210 (€266, four people) for which they receive kits in the post to take microbiome stool samples at home. These samples are then mailed back to the project coordinators for analysis.

‘Genus level’ analysis is performed by King’s College London and the University of California San Diego in the US which is then relayed back to the participants. This data includes bacterial type, proportion and overall microbial diversity.

Those on diets that may include prebiotics or probiotics, or treatment can submit multiple samples to track microbiome changes.

The microbiome, diet, health & disease

“Both projects aim to profile the gut microbiome of the American and British populations and they are both contributing  to a large open data repository which will allow us to answer many scientific questions such as  how different microbes associate with health or disease and how we can modify our diet and lifestyle to have the right microbiome diversity for optimum health,” Spector said.

“The results will be part of a [peer reviewed] published paper soon but so far we are finding differences between the average British and American gut and links between health and gut diversity.”

“The study is aiming to produce a large-scale collection of anonymised human samples and lifestyle information for medical researchers. The larger the sample repository the better the results.”

The project will also look at the bacterial communities in the mouth, skin and vagina.

Watch a video about the project here:

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