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Social Network Connects Members on a Gut Level

    Social networks allow us to connect with those who share common interests – political views, reading preferences, occupations, hobbies.  Now, thanks to scientists in the EU, you can find people who share your bacteria.  MyMicrobes, which opened to the public last week is looking for new members.   The goal of the nonprofit project...

 

E. coli bacterium cultures in petri dishes are lined up for observation; photo by Otis Imboden

 

Social networks allow us to connect with those who share common interests – political views, reading preferences, occupations, hobbies.  Now, thanks to scientists in the EU, you can find people who share your bacteria.  MyMicrobes, which opened to the public last week is looking for new members.   The goal of the nonprofit project is twofold:  to help scientists collect data on bacteria that live in the human gut and to allow members with similar profiles to share diet tips, experiences, and health information.

Those interested in joining are asked to submit a stool sample and to cover the cost of the analysis and sequencing (around $2,100).  In spite of the substantial cost, more than 100 people have already joined and project coordinators say they are hoping to enroll at least 5,000 members total.  MyMicrobes may not be the next Facebook, but biochemist Peer Bork told Nature that there is definite interest in the project.  “I got 50 to 100 e-mails from regular people having problems with the stomach or diarrhoea,” he said.  “They were long e-mails.  There must be a lot of frustrated people out there.”

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Alyson Foster
Alyson Foster works in the National Geographic Library where she purchases books for the Library’s collection and assists NG staff with finding research materials.