Phase Genomics, a company specializing in cutting-edge technology for microbial discovery and AnimalBiome, an emerging microbial assessment and supplement company focused on companion animals, analyzed stool samples from nearly 500 cats, including Lil BUB. The project evolved from the 2015 KittyBiome Kickstarter campaign. This collaboration led to the discovery of 22 new microorganisms found in the microbial samples of just two cats.
The project utilized new microbiome analysis technology, pioneered by Phase Genomics. The cutting-edge platform, ProxiMeta™ Hi-C, sequenced the DNA of hundreds of microbes living inside the poop of Lil BUB and Danny, a cat owned by microbiologist and science television host Jennifer Gardy.
In addition to finding numerous known bacteria living in these samples, the researchers were able to extract high-quality genomes for 22 bacteria that were previously not identified or sequenced by the scientific community. Lil BUB’s sample provided 13 new species, while Danny provided nine new species of bacteria.
Why is this significant?
“Most of the new species we identified belong to the same order of bacteria that’s responsible for colitis, gangrene, and tetanus,” said Dr. Ivan Liachko, CEO and Co-founder of Phase Genomics, “But inside an animal’s microbial ecosystem they may play a significant role in the health of the animal. To further our understanding, we’ll continue to build out a comprehensive database of gut microbiomes of diverse animals, including humans. This is just the beginning.”
The goal of this effort is to help identify what microbes are associated with healthy animals and work towards finding treatments of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), diabetes and other ailments likely to be associated with the microbiome.
“There’s an entire universe of undiscovered microbial life in our companion animals that could offer insights for new ways to support and improve the health of our pets,” said Holly Ganz, PhD, Founder and CEO of AnimalBiome. “If we discovered 22 potentially novel species in only two cats, imagine what we could discover tomorrow that could significantly impact a number of health-related ailments affected by the microbiome. ”
How you can help further this project
Improving databases of the microbiome of cats (and dogs) with new bacteria like this could help researchers learn more about how the gut microbiome helps support the digestive health of all pets. There are several ways you can get involved:
Help characterize the new bacteria
If you know of a researcher, scientist or cat-lover who would like to help them, Phase Genomics is soliciting input on the analysis that needs to be done to properly characterize and publish these genomes. Participants who contribute in a substantive manner to the project will be co-authors on the publication. All data associated with the project will be deposited into publicly available databases. The findings will be published in open access journals, so all pet lovers can read them. Phase Genomics will also hold a raffle to award one lucky contributor a free Hi-C sample kit from. If interested, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Name the new bacteria
Animal Biome is looking for input from the community on what they should name these 22 new bacteria, so if you have any fun ideas, please drop them an email at email@example.com. The format should follow standard practices of scientific nomenclature, so it should be constructed like this: “Clostridium _________.”
Find out what your cat’s microbiome looks like
If you’re interested in having your cat’s microbiome assessed to see how your cat’s gut compares to healthy cats, you can order a Kitty Kit – Microbiome Testing for Cats.
Submit your cat’s sample for genomic research
If you want your cat to contribute to scientific knowledge through the identification of new bacterial species, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. They will provide you with the details and pricing involved for them to identify new species in your cat through in depth analyses like they did for Lil BUB and Danny, using the Hi-C approach pioneered by Phase Genomics, which would also result in a publication.