Mapping the bugs in your body

Precision Driven Health and Orion Health release Microbiome report

By mapping and understanding the trillions of bugs that live in and on the human body, medical science has the potential to stop certain diseases forming or help an individual fight mental illness.

Orion Health and the research partnership Precision Driven Health today released a report about the potential for improving healthcare outcomes by understanding more about an individual’s unique community of microorganisms, called the ‘microbiome’.

“Whether it is curing existing ailments, preventing potential diseases from developing, or helping our bodies perform certain tasks better, our microbiome provides a huge potential for precise healthcare as 90% of diseases can be traced back to the microbiome,” says Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae.

“Currently most people’s electronic health record only contains their medical history, but in time it will include information about their microbiome, along with genomic, social and environmental data.”

Research is taking place in New Zealand and around the world to not only identify and categorise all microorganisms that are part of the human body, but also map their genes. Orion Health and Precision Driven Health believe that the more information is available about a patient, the better healthcare they can receive.

In the report, Healthy Food Guide Editor at Large Niki Bezzant provides an overview on how people can “get to know their bugs”, and examines topics such as whether your microbiome can affect your mental health, if it contributes to weight gain, and the emerging area of fecal transplants.

“If you’ve ever had butterflies in your stomach, or a ‘nervous tummy’ when you’re stressed, you’ve felt the communications going on between gut and tummy,” says Bezzant.

“The gut-brain axis – the two-way communication system between our central nervous system and our gastrointestinal tract – is an increasing focus of much research attention. It’s now thought that imbalances in gut bacteria could – through their interaction with the gut-brain axis – be responsible for disorders such as depression and anxiety.”

So how is it possible to capture the information about an individual’s microbiome? Precision Driven Health General Manager Kevin Ross provides an overview in the report of how to measure the bugs by using the field of metagenomics.

“Metagenomics is the study of the genetic material found in an environmental study. Our microbiome is the metagenome of the human body,” he says.

To find out more about the microbiome, how it can be measured so that it can evidently form part of an electronic health record – as well tips to keep your microbiome healthy – download a copy of the report here.