So far the American Gut Project has received over 12,000 samples from over 45 countries, with an age-range spanning from six weeks to 102 years.
Speaking at our first Probiota Asia summit in Singapore, its project manager Dr Embriette Hyde said the project was benefiting from “aggregation sites” in the UK, Australia and Singapore to expand its reach.
“But we need more samples from individuals living in other countries to fully examine the effects of diet and geography, among other factors, on the human microbiome, especially as we seek to utilise the microbiome to improve human health.”
Therefore, she told delegates, aggregator sites would be launched in China and Canada in 2018.
Dr Hyde said analysis undertaken so far had shown that country is one of the strongest factors affecting microbiome diversity, with significant differences noted even among western populations.
That said, the differences between western and eastern microbiome make-ups differ to a much greater extent.
Within Asia, the crowd-funded project has identified a major difference among Indian samples.
These revealed that bifidobacterium was far more prevalent than any other country, probably due to the amount of home-made yoghurt that is consumed.
When it comes to the impact of diet on the microbiome, she said the diversity of plants consumed plays a strong role.
A key insight was that this is not adversely affected if the individual also consumes meat.
“If you factor in if people eat meat, it really doesn’t matter,” she said. “It’s the diversity of food that is key. This is something we were able to discover using mass spectrometry.”
Dr Hyde stressed that the project was designed to be a free resource for investigators, clinicians and industry to enhance global health and wellbeing. More information can be found here.