• Why preserve gut microbes in a biobank?

There is an urgent need for conservation of the gut microbial biodiversity (e.g. in a biobank), for two main reasons. The first is time: major losses are already happening at a global scale mainly due to the consequences of the industrialization of our world. It’s critical that we safeguard this biodiversity urgently, before it’s lost. Second is that, while preserving human gut microbial diversity is central to the Global Microbiome Conservancy’s mission, advancing our understanding of this important facet of human health is also one of our core goals. By collecting and biobanking this important biodiversity, we aim to build a resource for scientists around the world to advance microbiome research and human health.

 

  • Would it be possible to preserve the human microbiome diversity through promoting human’s healthier diets and lifestyles?

Besides our ex-situ work on building a biobank of human gut bacteria, we fully support efforts to conserve this biological diversity where it naturally exists. We aim at educating the public at large on the importance of less-industrialized diets for human health, as well as the responsible use of antibiotics. When we work with participating communities (including indigenous people), we do talk to them about the effects of processed foods and antibiotics on their gut microbial diversity and health, so they can make their own informed decisions.

 

  • Which human communities are/will be involved?

Our goal is to capture the full biodiversity of the human gut microbiome. One of the cornerstones of our work is the principle of inclusion and representation: We want to ensure that both major ethnic groups and communities who have been overlooked historically have a chance to participate and be represented, including indigenous groups that are still living ancestral dietary and cultural practices.

 

  • How participant anonymity is protected?

Participant anonymity is protected at all times. All personal participant information, associated data, and related records are “de-identified”, i.e. each participant’s sample is immediately assigned a unique ID number that is known only by the study organizers, who maintain the key linkeing participant IDs with their personal information on an encrypted server/password protected laptop. Samples and data will only be released in de-identified form so that researchers cannot identify the identity of the participant.

 

  • Can participants withdraw from the study?

Participants can withdraw from the study at any time, for any reason and without any consequences for them. If participants ask to be withdrawn from the study we will destroy their samples and all the bacterial strains cultured and isolated for their samples.

 

  • Who own the bacterial strains in the collection?

Participants are the sole owners of their samples and derived cultured gut bacteria. All samples are provided to us expressly ‘on loan’; we are stewards of the samples, not owners. The bacterial strains that we culture and conserve in the biobank can be shared with third parties for non-commercial research purposes only.