A Q&A with Dr Alena Pribyl from Microba
We speak to Dr Alena Pribyl, the Senior Scientist and Research Officer at Microba. Offering in-depth gut microbiome testing and analysis, Microba can help to discover your unique microbiome, how it affects your gut health and how you can achieve a better balance between desirable and less desirable microorganisms in your gut.
What was the initial vision for Microba and has that changed over time?
Microba wants to bring science to life. We do this by using the latest technology and evidence-based research to help people achieve the best health outcomes possible. This core vision of our co-founders, Professor Gene Tyson and Professor Phillip Hugenholtz, has been reinforced since our launch in 2018. We use the most advanced microbiome analysis methods to improve our understanding of how the gut microbiome influences health so we can create life-enhancing healthcare products in the future. Our mission is to make the benefits of microbiome testing and treatment accessible to everyone from researchers and the medical community to families. Through Microba’s Future Insights Program, we hope to develop new treatments and diagnostics for disease states that have been linked to the gut microbiome and encourage our community to be proactive about their health.
What is the Microba philosophy?
Microba is at the intersection of health, big data and computing, and our key philosophy is to create a community of greater health built on leading innovative scientific research. The insights we collect aid future research and potential treatments. We are an established leader in the analysis of the gut microbiome and remain focused on continuing to be a strong contributing force in the development of new pathology services, therapeutics and diagnostics based on gut health.
Can you explain what is the role of the gut health microbiome?
The gut microbiome is the community of microorganisms that live in our gut and we are at the tip of the iceberg in our understanding of the roles it plays in our body. Research has expanded rapidly over the last decade, with many studies observing that people with a variety of different disease states have a different gut microbiome compared to healthy people. These disease states are not limited to the gut and include diseases that occur in other areas of the body such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and even depression. We do not yet know if these changes to the gut microbiome are a cause or consequence of the disease, but we know that our gut microbiome can produce thousands of different substances which interact with our body and influence our health. These substances can influence our immune system, our metabolic system and even our nervous system.
What is a gut microbiome analysis? What can it tell us about our bodies?
A gut microbiome analysis tells you about the microorganisms that are in your gut. There are several different methods available to analyse the microorganisms in your gut, but at Microba, we use an advanced DNA sequencing method called metagenomics to analyse the microorganisms in your gut. This method can give you a very detailed picture of who is in your gut at the species level, as well as tell you the potential of your gut microbiome to perform different functions such as break down fibre and protein, or produce short chain fatty acids and other substances linked to health. The Microba Insight™ report will also provide whole food suggestions to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria that are low in your sample and a complementary 15-minute consultation with a microbiome coach who can help explain your report and suggest next steps in improving your overall health and wellbeing.
What are three things we can do right now to improve the health of our microbiome and lead a healthy lifestyle?
There is no “one size fits all” approach to improving your gut health, but there are some general changes you can make to your gut health. Such as:
- Make sure you are eating enough fibre (the Australian and NZ Nutrient Reference Values for reducing chronic disease risk is 28g of fibre/day for women and 38g fibre/day for men).
- Try to eat diverse types of fibre from a variety of foods including fruits, vegies, legumes, cereal grains and nuts.
- Limit saturated fats.
Of course, these changes may not work for everyone and those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive issues should consult their medical practitioner or specialist before making major changes to their diet.
What’s next for Microba?
Microba’s vision is to advance our understanding of how the gut microbiome is involved in health and disease so in the future it will be possible to manipulate the gut microbiome for improved health and wellbeing. We are working towards realising this vision with our Future Insights Program – a citizen-science program where those who take the Insight™ test can contribute their anonymised data to help us identify links between different lifestyle factors and the gut microbiome. This information will help us narrow down key bacterial species and functions that may be playing a role in different health and disease states so we can investigate them further in our laboratory. In the future, we plan to develop new microbiome-based diagnostic tests for disease states, diagnostic tests to predict the response to therapeutic interventions and treatments for different microbiome-linked diseases.