Finding out about your own gut microbes

Want to know which microbes live inside your gut?

Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in collaboration with the Human Food Project, have created an open-access, crowd-funded project, “American Gut,” where you can find out. They will tell you not only which microbes are in there but also what they are doing.

The microbes in your gut may be making you fat

The microbes in your gut may be making you fat

Scientists say each person’s microbes are different, and they determine how one processes food.

Can an upper-respiratory virus make you fat?

Can an upper-respiratory virus make you fat?

Scientists say that adenovirus 36 is a major factor in almost a third of all human cases of obesity.

More health and science news

Have you used the new health insurance exchanges?

Have you used the new health insurance exchanges?

What has been your experience with the online insurance exchanges?

Federal appeals court upholds EPA mercury rules

A DC federal appeals court rejected challengers who said EPA rule was too costly and flawed.

New hopes and worries for big data and health care

As researchers embark on a project to connect 30 million patient records, questions about privacy arise.

Mass. cannot ban FDA-approved painkiller, judge rules

Federal law trumps state’s ability to prohibit approved drugs from reaching patients.

It’s all part of a larger backdrop that includes the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, an ambitious $195 million undertaking that aims to characterize the microbial communities found at several sites on the human body, including nasal passages, oral cavities, skin, gastrointestinal tract and urogenital tract, and to analyze the role of these microbes in human health.

But unlike typical clinical studies, which draw carefully screened participants, anyone who wants to participate in “American Gut’’ can, although each person must donate $99 to do so. The organizers hope tens of thousands of people will sign up.

The scientists hope to use the information to understand how diet and lifestyle, whether by choice — like athletes or vegetarians — or by necessity, including those suffering from particular autoimmune diseases or who have food allergies, affect people’s microbial makeup, said Rob Knight, a member of the research team who is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the university.

Participants will receive a list of the dominant microbes in their gut, and several visualizations showing how they compare with the population at large. Ultimately, as the research advances, participants can learn if their own microbes are “good” or “bad” — that is, protective or risky — and what, if anything, they can do about it.

People who may want to participate can find more information at www.humanfoodproject.
. Those who sign up will receive a swab kit in the mail — for taking a fecal sample — and will be asked to fill out an online questionnaire that asks for detailed information about what they’ve been eating. This will allow the researchers to compare vegetarians, omnivores, junk-fund consumers, gluten-free eaters, etc.

— Marlene Cimons

Read what others are saying