From purchase to personal account, here's exactly what to expect from the Atlas Microbiome Test upon delivery, at the lab, and finally, in your results.
Deciding to take a microbiome test is not as straightforward as buying a coffee. At least not yet. Let us explain the whole process so you know what happens, when, and why each step matters.
Table of contents
- What’s in the microbiome kit?
- How to collect a sample like a pro
- What happens at the laboratory?
- Why 16S rRNA and what is it?
- What can you learn from the results?
A courier has just delivered your microbiome test kit. You send your sample back, it heads straight to the laboratory. Just a bit of patience, and your personal account has the results. But there is a bit more to it, so we decided to walk you through the process step-by-step.
What’s in the microbiome kit?
Register the barcode from your microbiome kit in your personal account, collect your sample carefully, and post it back to us.
Every great journey has a beginning. Ours comes in a white box. After your purchase, a courier will deliver your microbiome test kit. It contains everything you need to collect a sample, secure it in the box, and send it back to us.
|What’s in the box?||Instructions|
|Sample collection tube|
|Spatula for stool collection|
|Toilet seat sample collection insert|
|Bag to store your sample tube|
|Prepaid postage label (on the box)|
☝TIP☝The box is already addressed and the postage has been paid, so all you have to do is drop in your nearest postbox and it will make its way to our lab for testing.
How to collect a sample like a pro
John didn’t read the instructions. He spilled the stabiliser liquid and tried to put a whole poop in the tube. Don’t be like John. Read the instructions.
The brochure and instructions inside the kit explain everything you need to do. Start by creating a personal account on the Atlas website and registering the barcode on the sample collection container.
We even made a video about gut microbiome testing, just for you!
Once the kit is registered, read the instructions carefully! If you don’t, you could ruin the sample and have to write an email to our customer service guru, Wolfgang, to request a replacement kit.
The collection tube contains stabiliser fluid to keep the genetic material of your gut microbes intact at room temperature. Just seal the tube tightly and place it in the biohazard bag inside the box.
Voila! You have collected and sealed your sample, and now you just need to send it back. As we mentioned, the microbiome kit comes with a prepaid return postage. Just seal the white box and drop it into a postbox. Done!
We take extra care in handling your data safely. It is encrypted and stored anonymously on certified European servers. We don’t sell your data, and you can have it deleted at any time.
☝IMPORTANT☝Your barcode is used to identify your sample. If you do not register it, we will not find your results!
What happens at the lab?
Your microbiome has about 150 times more genes than your body - that's more than 3,000,000 microbial genes.
Your gut is home to different microbe populations. They form a local ecosystem called the “microbiome”. It’s mainly made up of bacteria, but it also contains small amounts of fungi, viruses, and other organisms.
Different species of bacteria have their own set of likes and personal peeves. In older days, scientists would learn about bacteria by trying to grow them in different conditions and feeding them different nutrients.
The Microbiome Test comes with a tube, instructions, and a tiny spatula
But gut bacteria don’t grow well in Petri dishes because many can’t tolerate aerobic environments (with oxygen). And the microbes in your stool tend to get there because they have died (they reproduce quickly, so don’t worry), which is why we don't use Petri dishes.
Luckily, medical science has ace technology up its sleeve. Different species of bacteria have different genes. Written in DNA molecules, the genes linger after bacteria die. That’s why we use DNA sequencing technology to analyse your microbiome.
The gut microbiome contains tens of trillions of bacteria. Collectively, they encode 100 times more unique genes than we do. A complete analysis of this massive genetic pool takes a lot of time and effort.
Fortunately, all bacteria have one gene in common: it’s called 16S rRNA. Its structure varies from microbe to microbe, making it a convenient way to assess the composition of your gut microbiome.
Why 16S rRNA?
Every bacterium has a 16S rRNA gene. Some of its sequence is the same for all bacteria and other parts vary.
Almost all living organisms, except several virus types, use DNA molecules to store genetic information. Different genes can have different functions. Some of them encode blueprints for proteins that take care of many functions in living organisms.
Bacteria follow a specific process to build proteins from blueprints. The 16S rRNA gene is essential in this process. Without it, bacteria cannot synthesize vital proteins. This gene has variable regions, which offers a way to recognise groups of bacteria.
Scientists now use the 16S rRNA genes just like we use web addresses. They all have similar structure with “www.” and “.com”, but what’s in the middle tells you where you’re heading.
Once we learn bacterial “addresses” in a sample, we can draw conclusions about microbiome composition. The scientists studied many gut bacteria, and we use reliable research to calculate functionality, diversity, and health of your microbiome.
The 16S rRNA gene contains a code that allows us to identify bacteria
A DNA sequencing machine can read the 16S rRNA gene from the bacteria in your sample. That’s how Atlas Biomed analyses the composition of your microbiome and assesses the ratios of different bacteria within it.
The samples are analysed in batches, which is why it may take 4–6 weeks before you get your results. While you’re waiting, you’ll receive a weekly email with facts and information about what you're going to discover.
What’s in the results?
A few weeks after sending your sample, you will receive an email inviting you to see your results. Here is what you can expect.
After your microbiome data is interpreted, you can access your results at any time. Log in to your personal account online or via Atlas Biomed app, and you will see a detailed breakdown of your microbiome features.
|Disease risks||Vitamin synthesis||Microbiome type|
|Microbiome diversity||Dietary fibre||Bacteria ‘nationality’|
|Dietary advice||Butyrate production|
The gut microbiome hosts a wide range of microbes. Some of them have a positive effect on our health. These beneficial bacteria help our body by producing different important vitamins and nutrients.
Other bacteria can overtake the gut and unbalance it, causing dysbiosis. In a diverse microbiome, the beneficial bacteria stop this from happening. But if an influence, like antibiotics, reduces microbiome diversity, things can get out of control.
The microbiome test assesses the diversity of bacteria in your gut. A diverse microbiome does not only fight dysbiosis, but also protects you from chronic preventable diseases, and produces essential nutrients.
It is possible to calculate how well your microbiome protects you from chronic diseases. If your gut environment is similar to a “typical” microbiome of a person with type II diabetes, it indicates a higher probability of developing this condition.
The fewer similarities between your microbiome and those of patients with these diseases, the better protected you are. But always remember that we are talking about probabilities, not certainties, and your actions can always change the outcome.
Nutrition and vitamins
The gut microbiome influences your health by producing useful nutrients. Your body needs vitamins, butyrate, and other metabolites to fuel its cells. If microbiome disturbances lead to reduced nutrient production, it can affect the overall wellbeing of your gut and body.
Scientists estimated that more than 30% of your daily Vitamin B6, B9, and B12 intake is provided by the gut bacteria. Vitamin B12 is required to make red blood cells, and its deficiency can cause weakness and fatigue.
It is possible to enhance vitamin production by your microbes by adding certain foods to your diet. The same goes for short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), like butyrate, that are made in the microbiome.
The microbiome test shows how well your gut bacteria can deal with dietary fiber, vitamins, and butyrate production. These test results are also used to suggest a personalised list of foods that can help you balance your gut ecosystem
Dietary advice in your personal account explains why aubergine may be worth adding to your diet, how to get your vitamin B2 up, and how to improve other aspects of your microbiome health and diversity. And it is updated weekly!
Geography and microbiome type
You must have heard about how DNA tests can tell you about your ethnic origins. It can be surprising to find out where some of your ancestors lived. You may not know it, but your microbiome has a “nationality” too!
Different nations have different food preferences and different microbiomes. The microbiome test shows what nationality your eating pattern is most similar to.
Finally, you will get to learn what your microbiome type is out of three categories, which also reflect our dietary preferences. Your microbiome always knows if you are a Veggie Muncher, a Western Gourmand, or a Grain Lover!
Repeat-testing to check progress
The ratios between gut bacteria change to adapt to new eating habits, exercise, medication, and other factors. The microbiome test allows you to take a snapshot of your gut ecosystem at one moment and make a positive change.
Our experts recommend doing microbiome tests at regular intervals and after any important changes in your lifestyle. This allows you to assess the effect of your new habits and make positive choices for your overall well-being.
☝️TIP☝️Discover your gut bacteria and their functions with the Atlas Microbiome Test and get 10% off when you sign up for blog updates!
- [Ley, R. E., Peterson, D. A., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). Ecological and Evolutionary Forces Shaping Microbial Diversity in the Human Intestine. Cell, 124(4), 837–848.] (https://doi.org/10.1016/J.CELL.2006.02.017)
- [Mitreva, M. (2017). The Microbiome in Infectious Diseases. Infectious Diseases, 68-74.e2.] (https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-7020-6285-8.00008-3)
- [Wu, W.-K., Chen, C.-C., Panyod, S., Chen, R.-A., Wu, M.-S., Sheen, L.-Y., & Chang, S.-C. (2019). Optimization of fecal sample processing for microbiome study — The journey from bathroom to bench. Journal of the Formosan Medical Association, 118(2), 545–555.] (https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JFMA.2018.02.005)