Co-founded by Rob Knight and Jeff Leach, the American Gut Project is a crowd-sourced, open source citizen science project aiming to characterize the human microbiome. The human microbiome is all the bacteria living in and on your body. Did you know that microbial cells outnumber the cells that make up our body 10 to 1? That’s a lot of organisms living alongside us that are still largely a mystery. The microbiome differs from person to person, and within each person, different locations on the body have their own distinct microbial communities. This creates a lot of variation, which means a lot of data is needed in order to effectively study the microbiome. This is where you come in! Anyone and everyone is eligible to sign up for the project.
We protect the privacy of your data by de-identifying your sample(s). This means that your name, address, and other identifying information are kept under lock and key on our secure servers and are NEVER released. We link your dietary and lifestyle information to your sample through a unique, randomly generated barcode, and the researchers that work with American Gut data can see only this barcode as a means of identifying individual samples.
Our project and all aspects have been reviewed by UCSD’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure our research is in accordance with government and ethical guidelines.
While there have been some findings linking general trends to factors like obesity, diet type, and even seasonal differences, the specific way in which the microbiome impacts our health is not well understood. We have made headway into identifying all of the microbes living alongside us, but there is still much to investigate. We’ve barely scratched the surface going beyond what microbes are there, to figuring out what these microbes are doing and how they interact with our bodies and each other to impact our health. Implications into diseases, such as neurological diseases, have also been made that would not have been considered a decade ago.
You may sign up and order a kit through our Fundrazr site. Simply select the kit type (or “perk”) you would like by clicking “Claim this perk”.
Yes! If you currently reside in Europe, please visit the British Gut Project. We also have sites in Australia and Singapore (titled “Australian Gut” and “Asian Gut” respectively), which handle sending kits and receiving samples in their particular areas. We also accept samples from all over the world. If you are from Australia or Singapore or anywhere else in the world and wish to sign up, please do through our American Gut Project Fundrazr. Please visit this page to read on specific details on how to participate.
We will provide a general overview of how your microbial profile compares to other participants. You will also receive a full list of the bacteria found in your sample and their relative abundances. Raw data are also uploaded onto the European Bioinformatics Institute repository, so you can explore your data on your own if you’d like. Please note that our results are not meant as a medical diagnosis. We cannot offer any medical or clinical intrepretation from your results, which includes dietary/lifestyle advice.
All of our methods are open source (free and transparent to all). The sample preparation and sequencing methods that we use were extensively tested and benchmarked for the Earth Microbiome Project. All Earth Microbiome protocols can be accessed here, and we have a great section on our participant FAQ page with links to documentation of all of our processing and data analysis methods here. All of our analyses techniques are also open source and are available as a set of IPython notebooks for those interested in tracing our exact steps to produce their own American Gut analysis.
If you are looking to bulk purchase kits in a denomination that is not listed on our Fundrazr, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org expressing your interest. Please provide information on what you intend to use the kits for and the number of kits you’re interested in receiving.
We have had several schools successfully enroll their entire class for a semester project, so we would love to have you on board. We are also open to do remote seminars, so if this is of interest, let us know. It does take approximately 3 months to fully process samples, so lead time is crucial. For students under the age of 18, parental consent must be obtained for participation.