FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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What is the American Gut Project?

Overview Icons-01Co-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. All of the microbial sequencing data and health and lifestyle information that we collect are made public through the European Bioinformatics Institute, enabling researchers from all over the world to ask groundbreaking questions using the American Gut dataset.

How are my data protected?

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, which have been assessed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of California, 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.

Why is this important?

While there have been some findings linking general trends to things like obes
ity, diet type, 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 the 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.

How can I participate in the project?

You may sign up and order a kit through our Fundrazr site.  Simple select the kit type (or “perk”) you would like by clicking “Claim this perk”.

I live outside of the U.S. Can I still participate?

Overview Icons-02Yes! If you currently reside in Europe, please visit the British Gut Project. We also have an aggregation site in Australia. Other sites are up and coming as well! All other international participants should sign up via the American Gut Project. Please read through our Fundrazr page for more specific details.

Will I receive anything in return for participating?

Overview Icons-09We 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, so you can explore your dataon 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 advice from your results.

How do you process the American Gut data?

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.

I am a teacher at a school or university. Can I get my class involved?

We have had several universities successfully enroll their entire class for a semester project. Please email info@americangut.org expressing your interest.
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.

I have received my American Gut kit, but I’m having an issue with the sample submission process.

Please check our FAQ section on the participant site or email info@americangut.org.