I’ve made a fascinating discovery in the past few days, and it’s prompting me to conduct some self-experimentation.
As you know, I’m not a physician, psychiatrist or psychologist, so please read the following with that caveat in mind.
I’m simply telling you because I think you’ll be interested.
Over the last year I’ve been doing some writing for the San Francisco start-up where Alexandra Carmichael works.
Alex also helped to found Moodnudges.
This company is uBiome, and they carry out DNA analysis of the bacteria that’s in and on every human body.
The scientific name for this ecosystem of trillions of bugs is the microbiome, and far from being yucky, we mostly couldn’t live without these tiny blighters.
The average human (yup, you probably) carries about six pounds of bacteria, enough in volume to fill a large soup can, and they help our bodies do vital things like digest cellulose and metabolise vitamins.
That’s your “good bacteria.”
But then there’s the less-good bacteria, of course.
Things like Clostridium difficile, and Staphylococcus aureus, the “S.A.” in M.R.S.A., one of the main causes of hospital-acquired infections.
Fortunately most of us aren’t troubled by nasties like these.
But what can you tell from having your “regular” bacteria checked out?
uBiome run their tests by having people like you and me send them a sample which can be swabbed from several different body sites, the gut being the most common one, in which case you simply have to wipe a cotton bud over a piece of, er, used toilet paper.
You then swirl the cotton bud in a little vial of stabilising fluid, pop it into a supplied padded envelope, then mail it back to uBiome in San Francisco where they place it in their DNA sequencing equipment to do its magic.
A few weeks later you can access their findings online, showing you how much of many different types of bacteria you have in comparison to the thousands upon thousands of others uBiome has tested.
So, a little while ago I did this swabbing thing and dispatched a “soupçon of poop” to uBiome, and last week got to talk through my results with uBiome’s new citizen-science-in-residence, Richard Sprague.
What he told me had me riveted.
So just what did he say?
Well I’ll tell you tomorrow.
Sorry, I know that’s a total tease, but I’m genuinely running out of space today.