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Processing Microbiome Kits

June 12, 2012

Jason Bobe is Executive Director of PersonalGenomes.org, a 501(c)(3) that aims to make genomes useful for humankind.

Yesterday Madeleine Ball and I finished processing the 100+ microbiome kits that we collected at the 2012 GET Conference and shipped them on dry ice to our collaborators at the University of Colorado for analysis.

PGP microbiome kit processing

A (very pregnant!) Madeleine Ball processes microbiome kits and prepares them for shipment on dry ice to our collaborators at the University of Colorado.  Photo Credit: Jason Bobe.  CC-BY.

Each microbiome sampling kit contains 5 sterile swabs.  PGP participants attending the GET Conference could volunteer to take a kit and swab 5 body sites: left hand, right hand, forehead, mouth and gut (via swabbing stool on a piece of used toilet paper — yes, made for interesting conversation at the conference!).  Out of the ~100 kits returned by PGP participants, only 1 kit excluded the gut sample; the remaining 99 kits had all 5 swabs.  Our volunteers are amazing (and adventurous)!

The Knight Lab at the University of Colorado will perform 16S sequencing and analysis that will help us characterize the microbial diversity of these 500 samples.  There are many interesting scientific questions that we will be able to begin to explore, such as: Do family members share similar microbes?  What about unrelated persons sharing the same household? How do diet, medications, and various lifestyle factors affect microbial communities?  Do these affects change with age?  How do antibiotics affect our microbiomes?   It will be really exciting to explore more deeply the linkages between microbes and certain diseases, such as skin infections, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.

Once the analysis is complete the results will be privately available to PGP participants.  Then after 30 days, the data will become publicly available and associated with participant profiles.  Stay tuned!

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