Frequently Asked Questions
‘Microbiome’ refers to the entire habitat of the microorganisms (bacteria, archaea, lower eukaryotes, and viruses), their genomes, and the surrounding environmental conditions [Ex. human gut]. This definition is based on that of biome, the biotic and abiotic factors of given environments.
The term ‘Microbiota’ is defined as the entire community of microorganisms present in a defined environment [such as human gut or skin]. Human body hosts a huge number of microbes of many different kinds (Bacteria, Fungi etc.), in & on many different organs (gut, oral, skin etc.). This complete collection of microbes constitutes the human microbiota. For example, the entire collection of microbes within gut is called gut microbiota.
Just like we carry genes and genomes in our cells, each of the microorganism also has their own genes and genomes. The complete collection of microbial genomes constitutes the metagenome. Specifically, the complete collection of microbial genomes within a gut [stool] sample becomes the gut metagenome.
The establishment [later composition and abundance] of the human microbiota is not random. The establishment begins from womb, type of birth (vaginal or caesarean), mother’s breast milk, diet and nutrition during growth and adulthood. Lifestyle habits (exercise, smoking, etc.) and various other environmental factors also significantly influence and shape the composition of one’s microbiota.
Read this great blog post in our blogs section
Its HUGE! Like more than number of cells in your own body !!
Usually, an adult human gut microbiota consists anywhere from 800 to 2000 different types (species) of microorganisms spanning across 5 different phylum viz., bacteria, archaea, fungi, virus and Eukaryota (protozoa and Metazoa). Each of these (800 to 2000 different) species have millions of copies of them, with current estimates indicating that the human gut is occupied with approximately 100 trillion cells of different microorganisms, happily living within us.
Read this great blog post in our blogs section.
No, they are not the same, it differs from person to person. Though the microbiota carries out many similar functions, but the jobs are not necessarily done by the same microbial species in each person. Also, the species carrying out the various functions in any given individual may change [in quantity] over age, diet, differs based on the sex of the individual, habits ecological niche etc.
Yes. There is a quite a bit of variation from one person to the next, depending on all the factors mentioned above. But one’s own microbiota gets stable over time, so does its functional capabilities and impacts on our health.
Most of these microbes are either benign or mostly beneficial, and rarely gets detrimental to our health, either singularly or in combination. So, we have a bunch of friendly and non-friendly microorganisms within/on us, since thousands of years (as species) and from our birth (as individuals). This is specifically true with respect to our guts, where these microorganisms have thrived as an entire ecosystem with continuous availability of nutrition.
Watch this great blog post in our blogs section.
Due to their symbiotic [beneficial] and/or parasitic [non-beneficial] nature, these microbes play a significant role in many fundamental life processes. The function and impact of the microbiota varies from place to place and many of its functions have not yet been completely elucidated. Like for example, bacteria in the mouth and gut helps in digesting complex carbohydrates & lipids we ingest and keeps immune system in check. It has emerged as a virtual metabolic organ, given its impact on a large spectrum of digestion and metabolism of the food that we consume. Its ability to establish an axis with several extraintestinal organs, such as kidneys, liver, cardiovascular, the bone system and the brain, has gained a lot of traction in the recent past.
Watch this great blog post in our blogs section.
Yes, microbes sense and interact with specific receptors [antenna of sorts] that are secreted by our cells, which they use as “cues to decide” where to grow. Thus, there is a role for human genetics in the eventual structure of the microbiota. The exact mechanisms that govern these selection processes are also under active study, but they certainly include a great deal of communication, as well as physical cues like temperature and moisture levels, which is also driven by our genetics.
The gut microbiota [composition, abundance, and diversity] may vary depending on the geography (Indian, Asian, American etc.), gender, culture and demographics, genetics (of your own and that of the race), diet, and many environmental factors. Hence, the gut microbiota of every individual follows certain larger patterns. These types and their abundances are not static, and it changes with age, geography, culture, and most importantly diet, and any shift in the above categories, can lead to a shift in the type and abundance of microbiota.
The gut is the best studied site of all the human microbiomes, and it contains the largest, densest, and most diverse microbial community in the human body. The gut microbiome acts as a highly efficient bioreactor, helping to extract energy and nutrients from the food we eat. Compounds that humans cannot digest on their own can be broken down by microbes. The gut microbiome has complex effects on human health and changes in its composition have been linked to several diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, Clostridium difficile infections, autoimmune disorders, and even diabetes and obesity. There are intriguing indications that the gut microbiome may affect sleep patterns, mood, and other behaviours. Hence, the impact of microbiome on out health and wellbeing is big!!
No!! The microbiomes of the mouth, skin, vagina, and lungs are also altered in various other health conditions like dental caries, acne, urinary tract infections and respiratory infections, respectively. The microbes in these body sites are not simply passive bystanders but are playing active roles in the dynamic balance between health and disease.
The good thing about our microbiota, especially the gut microbiota, is that it can be manipulated (in composition, abundance, and diversity) and make them work for us, improving our physiological functions, immune system, and metabolic regulation. Such manipulation is currently achieved through:
- Dietary manipulations (which in turn is a function of microbial composition).
- Probiotic supplementation – either naturally as food or as cultured supplementation.
- Prebiotics supplementation – which dietary substances that selectively promote proliferation and activity of beneficial bacteria indigenous to the colon. Supplemented either naturally as food or as processed supplementation.
- As “Synbiotic” – an optimal combination of probiotic species and a set of prebiotics that augment their growth.
- Faecal Microbiota Transplantations (FMT) – for serious clinical conditions like C.diff infections.
Personalizing the kind and frequency of the dietary, probiotic, and prebiotic recommendations, should be based on one’s unique gut microbiome. Hence, evaluating (the composition, abundance, and diversity of) the gut microbiome seems to be the first and most promising path forward for achieving optimal health benefits.
Well tolerated set of dietary, probiotic, and prebiotic recommendations, for manipulation of one’s gut microbiota is the next big thing in disease management and health care. And to get a well-tolerated recommendations, one needs to test and see what the current status of their microbiome is.
And this is where BugSpeaks® can aid you to make such guided decisions.