Introducing the Facebook of ... gut flora?

MyMicrobes looks to marry science and social networking

When I wrote a year ago that it "Seems everything is the Facebook of something," I thought that I had seen it all when it comes to niche social networks. ... Silly me.

Meet MyMicrobes, a site launched by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, that is dedicated to connecting individuals across the globe based upon the details of their innermost selves: gut flora. From a story on

The non-profit program MyMicrobes ... is inviting people to have their gut bacteria sequenced. Acting as both social network and DNA database, the website offers a place for people to share diet tips, stories and gastrointestinal woes with one another. In exchange, researchers hope to gather a wealth of data about the bacteria living in people's guts.

The same team of researchers showed earlier this year that people fall into one of three groups, or 'enterotypes', when it comes to the genetics of their gut bacteria (see 'Gut study divides people into three types').

Aching to belly up? Well, the price to join MyMicrobes is a stomach-churning $2,100 ... plus the willingness to donate a stool sample to science.

(What online news looked like on 9/11)

As of this moment, a counter on the MyMicrobes site places the number of participants at 124, a far cry from the 5,000 that the researchers believe would be needed to succeed. "It requires a critical number of participants," one told Nature. "Just like competitors of Facebook, we might fail to get that critical mass."

The price point alone may prove too much to swallow, although at least one genomics blogger sees even that barrier coming down in the not-too-distant future.  

In the meantime, of course, the seriousness of the science will fail to prevent a fair amount of potty humor, including this tweet from Graham Lineham, writer/director of The IT Crowd: "I just became the Mayor of my toilet on MyMicrobes."

Not that anyone would want to make light of another's gastrointestinal woes.

Welcome regulars and passersby. Here are a few more recent buzzblog items. And, if you’d like to receive Buzzblog via e-mail newsletter, here’s where to sign up. Follow me on Twitter here and on Google+ here.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022