What your poo says about you

Ever wonder why some people are full of energy and others are constantly lethargic? Why do some individuals become elite athletes and others struggle to walk around the block?

The Healthy Optimal Australian Microbiome (HOAM) Study being conducted at St George Hospital’s Microbiome Research Centre is trying to discover if gut microbiome can give us these answers.

The microbiome is the collective genetic material of all the bacteria, fungi and viruses that live in and on us, and have an impact on our health.

Professor Emad El-Omar, Professor of Medicine, Director of the Microbiome Research Centre and gastroenterologist based at St George Hospital is the Chief Investigating Officer for the study, which has been funded by a federal government Medical Research Futures Fund Grant.

"By studying what the microbiome looks like in healthy and cognitively robust older adults we can determine the factors that have helped them to age so well," Professor El-Omar said.

"Healthy and supremely fit athletes also offer a unique insight. We want to see what in their microbiome might help them achieve peak physical, metabolic, cardiovascular and mental performance. We are trying to define the microbiome of optimally healthy individuals across the age spectrum.”

Dr Michelle Fitzmaurice, Project Manager for the study said: “Poo is a microbial and biochemical gold mine. The study aims to define what a healthy microbiome is across many generations of Australians, from 13 years of age to those over 95. The oldest person in this study so far is 102," Dr Fitzmaurice said.

“We are hoping to see what the microbiome is like in healthy people and how this compares to people who are not so healthy, so we need participants from both groups for the study,” she explained.

 “The team anticipates that the results from this study will provide the optimal template to guide pre-emptive manipulation of the microbiome towards health, prevention and treatment of disease.”

“In the long term, we anticipate results from this iconic research will set the stage for future diagnostics, therapeutics and/or probiotics,” Dr Fitzmaurice said.

The team has an ambitious goal of recruiting 550 participants to the study before the end of this year and need your help.

“By taking part in this research, you will be contributing to research that has the potential to impact the health of many everyday Australians,” Dr Fitzmaurice said.

Participating is simple and requires only one collection of samples, most of which you can do in the privacy of your own home. You will be asked questions about your lifestyle and can drop samples to NSW Health pathology labs, including urine, faeces, mouth swab and have a blood test.

To find out more or join the study, visit http://www.microbiome.org.au/HOAM/

Picture: Chloe Hicks and Thisun Jayawardana at the Microbiome Research Centre at St George Hospital.

Two researchers working at a machine to analyse a sample.