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Are there differences in microbiome datasets?

The amount of data in a microbiome dataset depends on the location of the sample taken from, for example a human subject or environmental location under research. The graph below shows differences in the number of species within a certain site of the human body. Gut and Skin microbiomes contain a higher number of species compared to those within the Respiratory and Urogenital as they are more exposed to many external environmental microbiomes from food, drugs, clothing and skincare product application.

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A vast amount of data can be collected when studying the human microbiome and this data can differ depending on both the environment (parts of the body) that the microbiome occupies and the technology used to generate the data. When compared to the human genome, the potential amount of sequence data that could be collected when analysing just the gut microbiome is much greater, as shown in the table below.


To further complicate things, the microbiome data of individuals can also be different depending on a number of other factors , including the following:

  • Country the individual lives in
  • People around them
  • Age of individual
  • Their diet
  • Personal care routine (skincare, toothpaste etc)
  • Personal lifestyle habits e.g. smoking 
  • Their health 

If we consider one example, age of individuals, we can see the effect of ageing on the gut microbiome as shown in the diagram below. The Firmicutes population is lower in an elderly subject compared to a young adult and also the Lentisphera population has virtually disappeared.

A  - Elderly Subjects  B - Younger Adults
chart A chart B

These figures (taken from the paper Composition, variability and temporal stability of the intestinal microbiota of the elderly.) show the differences in microbiota composition at phylum level in (A) 187 samples from elderly subjects and (B) 9 healthy younger adult controls.

What is different about the data?

Microbiomes are comprised of different taxonomic groups, and different compositions of different types of cells within that population. Fundamentally it is the same type of data, but the data formats vary due to the different technological and analytical approaches taken.

For the latest information that may help to understand microbiome data, take a look at the 'Tools/Databases' category of our microbiome knowledge base:

Number of genes and Gb of sequence data from: and 

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Yasmin Alam Faruque and Chloe Eyre

About Yasmin Alam Faruque and Chloe Eyre

Yasmin: Biocurator, Yasmin Alam-Faruque is a member of Eagle Genomics' Biocuration team, joining in early 2014. "Why do I enjoy data curation at Eagle? It gives me the opportunity to find out about new industries, their areas of research, investigate and organise new datasets and work with the biomedical scientists who create and submit the data to make the data more accessible." Chloe: Marketing Intern at Eagle Genomics