Are these results are meaningful enough to be worthy of further analysis? How representative were these samples of my microbiome at the time? I submit only a tiny swab to uBiome’s lab; are the bacteria distributed evenly enough that the size or location of the sample doesn’t matter? Would I get similar results if I submitted two tests from slightly different sites on the same sample?
The answers to all these questions are unclear, but while we need to take these concerns seriously, my experience over many samples is that the uBiome results are consistent enough that, yes, the conclusions are actionable as long as we keep the limitations in mind. Here’s why I think so:
First, my results are consistent with other “healthy omnivore” submissions that uBiome has received from others with diets and health histories similar to mine. I would be concerned if, for example, my firmicutes/bacteroidetes ratio were reversed.
Second, 16S technology has proven accuracy when identifying unique organisms, so I can generally trust information about the overall level of diversity regardless of specific proportions. Since diversity tends to correlate with health – and is manipulable based on what I eat – my own experience shows that the changes I see in these results go up and down consistently in the expected way. Even if specific points on my microbiome map are fuzzy, the overall landmarks appear to be solid.