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Can you be identified by your microbiome?

Can you be identified by your microbiome?June 15, 2015

Increasing evidence supports that your microbiome can be altered by many external factors – from diet to wearing contacts. Considering the many factors that influence the diversity of a microbiome, a recent report in PNAS suggests that an individual's microbiome may be distinct enough to identify them within a population.

In this study, the authors defined specific metagenomic codes, or microbial taxa and genes, that were unique to different parts of the body and different individuals. After analyzing the microbial populations of individuals over 30-300 days, the results were striking: by the end of the testing period, approximately 30% of individuals tested could be identified just from the microbiota tested at a particular body site. The gut microbiome displayed the most specificity and stability, as 86% of those tested could be identified by this population alone. So while the microbiome may not replace genetic identification entirely, this study does highlight the potential of “microbial fingerprinting.”

Franzosa et al. Identifying personal microbiomes using metagenomic codes. PNAS. 2015; 112(22): E2930-E2938

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