Monday, September 28, 2015

Microbes on my skin

For some reason I haven’t had good luck getting uBiome to process my skin microbe samples. I swab the skin under my ear, just as directed, back and forth for a minute or so. I use their special water. The results always come back later saying they found nothing.

So today, imagine my surprise when they sent me a nice note announcing that they’d re-run my latest skin sample and found something! The web site version only found two phyla, which at first didn’t seem very interesting:
Skin Sample Compared
The sample shows up as only two taxa: Actinobacteria (96%) and Firmicutes (the rest). Fortunately, by downloading the taxonomy data and converting to Excel, I was able to get more details. Here’s my skin at the genus level:

Skin Microbes (Genus)

The vast, vast majority of microbes behind my ear are Propionibacteria, which appears to be true for most people and most skin types. This genus contains the special P. Acnes species known to be linked to acne. The species level information in my case only identified about half of all the taxa found in my sample, so although none of what was found was P. Acnes, it’s possible that it’s lurking in there someplace.

Since learning more about the microbiome, I’ve stopped using hand sanitizers, switched to shampoo that is free of sodium laurel sulfate, and I take other precautions to ensure i have the most “natural” skin microbiome I can get, but I don’t know if those actions have helped (or hurt).  The only way to find out will be to send another sample so I can compare. Now that I know uBiome is able to process my skin type, I’ll be sure to do that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

I'm a secretor

 The Gut Guardians podcast interview with Alanna Collen included an interesting reference to the FUT2 gene, which the podcast hosts says has been linked to response to high fiber diets. One of the alleles, referred to as the non-secretor type, offers a genetic immunity to infection by the Norwalk Norovirus, also known as the “cruise ship virus”. 

Alas, I’m not immune to that particular virus, but if you have to choose I think it’s better to have the “secretor allele”, like me. Overall, secretors seem less susceptible to many influenza strains and pathogenic bacteria, perhaps due to our better response to high fiber. 

What’s especially interesting is that how FUT2 also seems to be associated with your microbiome.  Secretors have noticeably different levels of various bacteria, including missing Bifido species that are known to play a role in health. This is another example of how genes don’t have the final say: you may not get the full benefits of being a secretor if you don’t eat enough fiber.

If you have your 23andme results, you can check your FUT2 status too.