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Update: uBiome used to be the top contender for gut microbiome testing. But unfortunately, uBiome is no longer in business. They filed bankruptcy in September of 2019 after undergoing an FBI investigation into their business practices and other problems. Here’s our previous review of this company.
Do you suffer from chronic intestinal problems or wonder how healthy your digestive tract is? The wonders of science can now shed some light on what’s living inside your gut.
You probably know that a host of microorganisms live in our digestive tract. Many of these microbes are beneficial; some aren’t.
Genetic sequencing tests like uBiome’s Gut Explorer, ExplorerPlus and SmartGut can give you a breakdown of some of your intestinal microbes — and whether they fall within normal ranges.
uBiome was founded in 2012, thanks to a $350,000 crowdfunding campaign for its IRB-approved microbiome study. The company’s Scientific Advisory Board includes some of the world’s top microbiologists, geneticists, and computational health scientists.
uBiome offers at-home Explorer kits, which give you a DNA fingerprint of your GI microbiome (and other sites). They also have a SmartGut test kit, which you can order from your physician.
If you’re not familiar with the basic science behind gut microbiomes, refer to our comprehensive article on gut microbiome testing companies to learn more.
- Simple, at-home swab with mail-in envelope
- ExplorerPlus test analyzes bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea in your gut
- More than 250,000 gut samples for comparison
- Lab is CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited
- Kits come with an extra swab and tube in case yours gets damaged
- You can download your raw data
- Ability to contribute to ongoing scientific research to improve disease diagnostics and treatment
- ExplorerPlus kit is expensive
- Several consumer complaints about poor customer service
- Explorer test gives you detailed information on each of the identified bacteria and archaea (single-cell microorganisms) found in your sample, including their names, how many there are of each kind and what their functions are in the body.
- ExplorerPlus test gives you detailed information on each of the identified bacteria, viruses, fungi and archaea found in your sample.
- Compare your results with aggregate results from 250,000+ people, and to specific groups, i.e. you can compare your microbiome to ones of vegans, smokers, people taking antibiotics, etc.
- uBiome’s clinical lab is accredited by the College of American Pathologist (CAP) and compliant with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), which regulate lab standards for processing human samples.
- uBiome partners with 45+ top medical research universities and centers around the country.
Tests one time with one sample
- $89 single kit
- $71.20 per month for monthly test delivery
More comprehensive than GutExplorer: includes analysis of viruses and fungi, in-depth probiotic bacteria. Explore how your microbiome influences your vitamin levels and metabolism.
- $399 per kit
Time Lapse Explorer
Includes three tests so you can test pre, during and post diet-change
- $199 per kit
Five Site Explorer
Tests from all 5 body information locations (gut, nose, mouth, skin, genitals)
- $399 single kit
- $319.20 per month for monthly test delivery
Simply purchase uBiome online, and you’ll receive your analysis kit in the mail. In your kit, they give you detailed instructions on how to register your kit online and collect your samples.
- If you ordered the Explorer or ExplorerPlus kit, you’re only collecting a sample of your poop. You use the provided swab to collect your sample from used toilet paper and then place the swab in the provided tube.
- The Five Site Explorer kit provides swabs for each sampling location with instructions on how to sample each site (gut, nose, mouth, skin, genitals).
Mail your sample(s) back to uBiome, where their lab does the analysis. Then, you’ll receive an email when your results are ready online .
uBiome’s new SmartGut test is a first-of-its-kind, sequencing-based clinical microbiome screening test. SmartGut builds on uBiome’s previous testing kits by looking for the specific microbes associated with illnesses. The at-home collection kit involves the same swab process as uBiome’s Explorer kits.
If you want to identify pathogens associated with conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease, you can request uBiome’s SmartGut test from your doctor. Make sure your insurance covers the SmartGut test (not all do); otherwise it may run you $2,000+.
Check out this Wall Street Journal interview with uBiome CEO Jessica Richman that helps explain the human microbiome and what uBiome is all about.
Human microbiome research and testing are still in their infancy. Researchers working with the National Institutes of Health-sponsored Human Microbiome Project have only identified a very small fraction of normal human microbiome genetic strains.
Recent research reveals that there is a much greater diversity of the human microbiome from person to person than scientists initially anticipated.
If you’re looking for a test that can tell you everything you want to know about your intestinal microbiome, it doesn’t yet exist. The ability of human microbiome research and testing to detect and diagnose health problems is still questionable, given the lack of extensive scientific backing.
If your gut health is poor and you are looking for a way to improve your microbiome naturally, you may want to read about Restore4Life.
uBiome’s Explorer Kits are a fun tool that can give you a cursory glance into your gut and can reveal whether your diet falls within normal ranges compared to others. It’s also an excellent way to contribute to a substantial body of scientific research that one day could lead to a better way to diagnose and treat certain diseases.
Several other at-home gut tests have hit the market within the last few years (uBiome was the first-of-its-kind in 2012). Be sure to read our reviews of the five most popular gut microbiome testing companies to see how uBiome stacks up to its competition.
What do you hope to find by getting your microbiome tested?
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