Do you need to test the DNA of gut bacteria?

  For many people, sequencing their genomes is no longer rare. Through sequencing, we can know which dominant or recessive disease genes we have. This is of great benefit for preventing and treating certain diseases and preventing them from being passed on to the next generation.
  But if it’s true, just sequencing your own genes seems not enough. You must know that your body is not just yours. It is an ecosystem. In addition to human cells, it also hosts hundreds of millions of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms, especially the intestinal microorganisms. These microorganisms also have a significant impact on our health and mental condition. If we can know which microorganisms are in our body, and regulate and control them through corresponding food or medicine, it will also have great benefits for our health.
  Therefore, with the rise of the personalized medical industry in recent years, some start-ups have begun to provide services for sequencing the DNA of gut microbes.
Personalized sequencing service

  Founded in 2012, Ubiome in the United States is the first company to directly provide customers with gut microbial genome sequencing services. Since then, similar companies have sprung up in countries all over the world.
  Due to technical limitations, early tests could only roughly identify the types of bacteria in feces and intestines. But later, scientists developed a powerful “metagenomic sequencing method.” The whole genome of many microorganisms in the stool can be sequenced, allowing you to identify different species. In addition to identifying bacteria, it can also detect other microorganisms that may affect intestinal health, such as fungi, archaea, and viruses.
  In 2016, Israel’s Daytwo company took the lead in launching commercial services based on the “metagenomic sequencing method”. Subsequently, many companies also began to provide similar services. Each company’s sequencing fee is about $300. They mail the stool collector to the customer, then extract DNA from the customer’s stool sample and sequence it, and finally provide the customer with personalized dietary recommendations based on the microorganisms found. For example, if the customer’s Fusobacterium praseri (this bacteria is believed to prevent bowel cancer and enteritis) levels are below average, he will be advised to eat blueberries, watermelon, asparagus, cauliflower and other bacteria that can promote the growth of this bacteria food.
  Because everyone’s intestinal flora is unique, even if they react to the same food, the food they recommend varies from person to person.
  In order to provide customers with scientific dietary advice, Daytwo’s researchers even used big data to develop a machine learning algorithm. For example, according to each person’s intestinal flora, choose the best hypoglycemic diet formula from a large number of food combinations.
Drugs to regulate intestinal flora

  In fact, if you know the composition of the intestinal flora through sequencing, you can regulate them not only through food but also drugs.
  For example, the American Synthetic Biologics Company is developing a drug that regulates microorganisms to help patients with intestinal disorders. It prevents a type of intestinal bacteria called “methanobacteria” from producing excessive methane gas, which can cause bloating, constipation and abdominal pain. An early clinical trial showed that the drug relieved the symptoms of intestinal disorders.
  A French company is developing a drug to treat Crohn’s disease. This drug prevents harmful E. coli from attaching to the intestinal wall and causing inflammation-the cause of Crohn’s disease. The drug has been proven to be safe and effective in preliminary clinical trials.
  Regulating gut microbes can even help treat lactose intolerance. In life, some people cannot drink breast milk or milk, and they have diarrhea. Because their intestines cannot digest the lactose in milk. This is called lactose intolerance. A drug developed by Ritter Pharmaceuticals in the United States can stimulate Lactobacillus and other bacteria to break down lactose when lactose passes through the large intestine, so that patients with lactose intolerance can also consume dairy products normally.

From human fecal samples, we can see the diversity of the gut microbiota, including a macrobacterium that is 50 times longer than E. coli. The composition of each person’s gut microbiota is unique. Scientists are studying the effects of these microorganisms on our health, weight, mood and even personality.

From human fecal samples, we can see the diversity of the gut microbiota, including a macrobacterium that is 50 times longer than E. coli. The composition of each person’s gut microbiota is unique. Scientists are studying the effects of these microorganisms on our health, weight, mood and even personality.
Technology commercialization is not mature enough

  In the long run, providing gut microbial sequencing services is undoubtedly very promising. However, for the time being, whether this technology has matured enough to be commercialized is still debated among people.
  First of all, as someone pointed out, there is still a long way to go from determining which microorganisms are in the intestines to how to manipulate them to improve health. Sequencing can only tell us which microorganisms are in the gut; sequencing is only a means, and what we ultimately care about is how to prevent diseases. But there are thousands of bacteria in the gut, and scientists have only recently begun to understand which bacteria are important and how they work together. And in most cases, a disease will not be caused by a single strain. Before you have fully studied it, the dietary advice you recommend to your customers is likely to be wrong.
  In fact, some customers have begun to question the reliability of the service after comparing the results of the service received from different companies. For example, a researcher sent different parts of the same stool to two companies and got different sequencing results. Other customers also reported that they received conflicting dietary recommendations from different companies. For example, one company advises them to drink coffee and red wine, and another company advises them to avoid coffee and red wine.
  These differences may be attributed to different companies’ methods of sequencing DNA and interpreting data, but which method is more reliable is not known.
  In addition, as people become more interested in this service, some companies may make excessive promises. For example, some companies claim to be able to advise customers when choosing a partner based on sequencing results. This is false propaganda.
  Therefore, at this stage, we should only consider gut microbial sequencing as an interesting attempt, rather than a reliable way to improve your health. Of course, with the deepening of research, the reliability and effectiveness of this service should continue to improve. At that time, it may be worth our money to test once.