How does it work?
Our intestines are inhabited by many different micro-organisms that together are called ‘microbiota’. Most of these micro-organisms are bacteria. Because of scientific research, we know that these intestinal bacteria contribute to our health. This in turn facilitated much interest into the microbiota to determine the function of the bacteria and what mechanisms they employ that influence our health and further to elucidate the dynamics of the bacterial composition in our intestine as a result, for example of a change in diet. The scientific studies predominantly made use of fecal samples. Also at MyMicroZooTM we make use of this material.
A MyMicroZooTM kit will be delivered to your home address, after you ordered it from MyMicrozooTM. This kit contains an instruction for collection of the sample, a tube to store the sample and shipment to MyMicroZooTM, a feces catcher to ensure that the feces does not come in contact with the toilet, a cotton swab to transfer the sample to the tube, a small plastic bag with moist absorbing paper, and a bubble envelop to send the tube with sample to MyMicroZooTM.
The sampling procedure starts by taking the sampling kit with you to the toilet, after which you stick (temporarily) the fecescatcher to the toilet seat. After your bowl movement, take a small amount of feces (approximately a quarter gram, the size of the opening of the tube) and transfer this to te tube. The used swab can be disposed with normal waste. Finally, you turn the closed tube 5 times so that the sample mixes very well with the liquid in the tube. This liquid stabilises the fecal sample so that the composition can not change during transport to MyMicroZooTM.
Sample registration, information, and security
The sampling box is labeled with a unique sample identifier. MyMicroZooTM is not able to trace which sample identifiers are sent to which address. This is done to guarantee your privacy. It is very important that you register the sample identifier to your account so that MyMicroZooTM can send your bacterial composition to you. MyMicroZooTM registers the sample identifier during the analysis process (see below). As the sample identifier is linked to your specific account, your MyMicroZooTM results are automatically sent only to your account.
After you registered your sample, you will see a list of questions that request some information about your fecal sample itself and, importantly, also about your current health status, allergies, lifestyle, diet and physical activity. At this moment it is not yet possible to provide a health or diet advise based on the composition of your gut bacteria. However, once the MyMicroZooTM database grows with samples and information from different individuals, we can search for links between certain bacteria or groups of bacteria that play a role in health and disease. These findings do not only contribute to improve your own quality of life, but also that of others. This way MyMicroZooTM, together with you, strives towards a better understanding of the gut microbiota and how this can play a role in improving health, diet and performance.
MyMicroZooTM uses a secure https connection (using a SSL certificate) so that data from forms on the website are encrypted and your results are provided to you in a secure manner. The website uses the most recent and most secure standard ways to store data. The personal and medical data are stored separately in the database and cannot be linked except for the website itself. This is ensured by the fact that passwords are incripted and stored. Incription is done using the Salt method and is a so-called ‘one-way’ incription.
Sending the sample to MyMicroZooTM
To send your sample to MyMicroZooTM you place the tube in the small plastic bag with moist absorbant paper (to absorb any moisture during transport in case of an accidental leak), after which you put the plastic bag in the bubble envelope. The plastic bag and the bubble envelope protect the tube. Once you have done this, please send the bubble envelope to the address below.
2333 CC Leiden
Determination of the bacterial composition of your sample
As soon as the sample arrives at MyMicroZoo, we start with assessing the composition of the bacteria in the sample. The classic style for determination of the this would be by cultivation methods, but nowadays ‘molecular’ techniques are employed for this purpose and are based on DNA analysis.
DNA consists of two chains that are wrapped around each other in two opposing spirals. Each chain consists of 4 different units (nucleotides) that are repeated along the chain in a specific order, the sequence. Like you can form words using letters from the alphabet, you can form genes with the nucleotide sequence. The sequence of the nucleotides determines which proteins can be made in the bacterial cells. The protein constructing factories are called ribosomes. Considering that these protein factories are incredibly important for the bacterial cells, all bacterial cells carry the genes that code for the ribosomes. One of these genes is the ‘16S rRNA gene’. Although all bacteria carry this gene, its sequence differs between bacterial species.
To study the DNA of bacteria, we first of all extract the DNA from the sample that you sent to MyMicroZooTM, followed by amplification of the 16S rRNA genes in the DNA using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). The latter is performed to obtain enough material for the subsequent steps of the analysis. When enough material has been collected the sequence of the 16S rRNA gene is determined. These sequences are subsequently used for identification and enumeration of the bacteria in your sample. The number of specific sequences indicates how many of the different bacteria are represented in the sample. With these data we can construct graphs that give you clear view on the composition of the bacteria in your sample.
Your own gut bacteria composition!
When the results are ready, we will send you a message that you can view them on the MyMicroZooTM website. You can log into your account with your usual login details and select the sample for which you would like to see the results.
In the overview you will see a round ‘donut’ shaped figure showing the abundances, expressed in percentages, of the bacteria that were detected in your sample. By moving over the diagram you will see additional information about the function of specific bacteria if this is available (Picture 4). Below the diagram you will also see list of this information.
This overview and the additional information will give you more insights into your own gut bacteria and what these bacteria in your gut may be doing. If you are participating in a diet or lifestyle change, such as increased excersize or a different form of physical excersize, you can follow the changes in the composition in gut bacteria using multiple analyses by MyMicroZooTM and determine if the lifestyle change has a positive effect with the increase of beneficial bacteria such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii that can produce fatty acids associated with the digestion of fibre rich food.