Home > Health > Expert Contributor

How Microbiome Testing Could Predict Diseases, Reduce Costs

By Natalia Diaz - nutriADN
Head of Medical Education


Natalia Diaz By Natalia Diaz | Head of Medical Education - Tue, 07/25/2023 - 01:00

share it

Non-communicable diseases are reaching epidemic proportions, greatly impacting our healthcare system and global economies. Processed foods, lack of sleep, daily stress and overuse of antibiotics have a huge impact on our health, well-being, microbiome and, therefore, our risk of developing a disease.

Non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes and asthma are not cured or reversed, rather they are managed across the patient's lifetime, creating a burden related to quality of life and healthcare costs.

The creation of a new healthcare approach toward prevention and well-being is key to solving this worldwide epidemic of non-communicable diseases. 

Because of this, new technologies are on the rise to study how our lifestyle, genome, epigenome and our microbiome influence our health. The use of new technologies for screening and prevention of disease will create a paradigm shift in the way we approach health.

Over the past decade, more than US$1.7 billion has been spent on research into the human microbiome and how it impacts our health. According to Strategic Market Research, the microbiome market is valued at US$115 million (2021). The key factors that promote growth of the human microbiome market are faster technological advancements in metagenomics and next-generation sequencing. 

Our microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms that live within our body. We live in symbiosis with these bacteria, meaning that they provide us with health benefits and we provide them with an environment in which to thrive. 

When our microbiome is in balance, it provides us with health benefits, such as strengthening of the immune system, offering protection against pathogens in our digestive system and creating short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that have a systemic inflammatory effect in our bodies. In these and many other ways, our microbiome reduces our risk of chronic disease and decreases the risk of recurrent infections. 

There are different series of microbiomes in our body (skin, intestinal, pulmonary, oral cavity) and they all play a primary role in the development of disease or in health. Studies have shown that dysbiosis (meaning an imbalance of the oral, skin and intestinal microbiomes) may work as a tool for screening patients for risk of future disease. Management and strengthening of the microbiome can help reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases and infections, such as:

Pulmonary and immune disorders: Asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia infections and food allergies.

GastroIntestinal disorders: Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, non-alcoholic liver disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic diarrhea and constipation.

Skin disorders: Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, rosacea, acne.

Neurological disorders: Alzheimer's, depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorders, migraines, brain fog.

Metabolic and cardiovascular disorders: Hypertension, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, obesity.

Autoimmune disorders: Rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Infections: Decreased risk of developing hospital-acquired infections 

A wide array of diseases could be prevented by assessing the microbiome in different patient populations, preventing the rise of autoimmune, metabolic and gastrointestinal disorders. 

Lifestyle Influence

Dysbiosis is greatly influenced by different lifestyle factors. Mode of birth (babies born by C-section have less diverse microbiomes), the overuse of antibiotics during infancy and adulthood, high-fat diets, lacking of eight to nine hours of sleep each night and sedentarism significantly decrease the diversity and richness of our microbiome, contributing to dysbiosis. 

Dysbiosis influences the risk of non-communicable disease because proteobacteria create lipopolysaccharides, a substance that increases inflammatory cytokines in the body. 

The Microbiome as Part of the Healthcare System

P4 medicine is a new way of approaching healthcare. P4 medicine focuses on empowering patients and creating an individualized, tailored-plan for each patient to achieve the best results. 

P4 medicine is based on participatory, personalized, predictive and preventive medicine in which genomic, metabolomic and microbiome testing is included to get to the root cause of a patient’s disease and predict future healthcare events. In a P4 medicine consultation, the doctor will make personalized recommendations based on the patient's genetic and microbiome data, and empower the patient through lifestyle choices to increase quality of life and reduce risk of future disease. 

In 2020, the study, Cost‐effectiveness of Integrating Gut Microbiota: Analysis into Hospitalization Prediction in Cirrhosis, published by GastroHep clinical journal, showed that microbiome testing saved costs (US$47,000-US$97,000) by predicting and preventing 90-day re-admissions to the hospital of cirrhosis patients over current standard of care.

Microbiome testing may also decrease healthcare costs by sparing the use of other costly procedures, such as colonoscopies and predicting future gastrointestinal disease.

Microbiome testing analyzes the genetic material of bacteria present in the body. Testing includes commensal bacteria, pathogens and autoimmune-related bacteria, which provides the healthcare provider with a clear picture of the balance in the microbiome. 

Microbiome testing is already available through simple, at-home testing kits that patients can order online and have follow-up consultations with his or her healthcare practitioner.

Photo by:   Natalia Diaz

You May Like

Most popular