Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome! We are here to help you have the best possible uBiome experience. Please take a look through our FAQ before contacting us, and if your question isn't answered, send us an email at or use the live chat box on the bottom right of the screen. 



How can I contact you by telephone?

Though we can handle most issues promptly through email, we understand that sometimes you just want to speak to a person. Not a problem! You can book a time to speak to us here.

Do you ship outside the United States?

Yes! We accept payment through major credit cards and will ship to almost every country in the world. Our kits comply with all IATA regulations for exempt samples and sending and receiving your samples should not be a problem. You can return your sample via regular mail as it is shelf-stable for over a month. There is an additional $20 shipping charge for international (non-US) orders. 

When can I expect my kit to arrive?

Standard shipping on domestic orders will deliver your kit within 5-10 business days. For international orders, delivery can sometimes take several weeks. If you need your kit(s) more quickly, please make sure to select an expedited shipping option at checkout.

When will I get my results?

We start sequencing samples as soon as we receive them, but it usually takes 6 weeks to process the samples and compile the results. Of course it's possible there could be delays due to unforeseen circumstances, so it's probably wise not to make any plans that depend on your results being available at a specific time.

I am moving. How do I update my address?

Please send us an email at and we will update it for you!

How long will my kit last?

uBiome kits can be stored refrigerated for up to two years before taking your samples. Once you've sampled, the tubes can survive comfortably at room temperature for a month, and can be refrigerated for up to two. But it's best if you return your samples to us as promptly as possible.

Do I need to activate my kit? 

Yes. We absolutely need you to activate your kit before sending us your samples. There is a questionnaire for each sample site which will greatly improve the value of the information we give you. Plus, we need you to electronically give your authorization before we can process your samples. 

And also so we know who the kit belongs to! You can do this by going to and following the instructions there. 

I am having a problem activating my kit.

If you have any problems with activation, please update your version of Chrome, Firefox or Safari to the latest version. If you have an up-to-date browser and are still having issues, the best thing to do is to contact us at We can help you out if you are having difficulty, or we can troubleshoot on our end if something isn't working the way it should.

I can't find my sampling instructions!

All the instructions are on the website when you activate your kit. Just go to and go from there.

How many tubes should be in my kit? 

There are several types of kits, and the most popular is the gut-only kit. This kit includes a gut sample vial, a swab, inner and outer return envelopes, and a spare tube in case you make a mistake or want to add another site. The other sites include additional tubes and swabs. You probably did get everything you need, but in case you didn't or if you aren't sure, just send us an email at

I knocked over a tube/my dog chewed my swabs/I contaminated my sample!

Our kits come with a spare tube and swab, so any mistake can be remedied by using the spare included. If you should still need a replacement, just email at and we'll send you a replacement immediately.

How do I collect my sample?

All instructions for the kit you ordered are available online, once you activate your kit. Please go to and follow the instructions there. You'll find out interesting tidbits like how long to swab for and what to do with your sample, before sending it back to us. We also made a handy little video for you about sampling your skin microbiome. You can watch it here.

If you're having trouble locating the instructions, they've been transcribed in full below:


  • Sampling takes less than 3 min per site. Faster than a dividing bacteria!
  • We recommend you leave your kit on your bathroom counter so it's ready first thing in the morning.
  • Sample first thing in the morning, before you brush your teeth or eat breakfast.

Open the tube you want to sample and the follow the site-specific instructions below:


  • Swab your used toilet paper to collect a tiny amount of poop.
  • Note - this probably way less than you think you need - just enough to change the color of the swab.


  • Vigorously rub the swab across the inside of each cheek for 30 seconds.
  • Note - do not touch your teeth or gums to the swab.


  • Wet the swab with the PCR water included in your kit. (Do not use regular water.)
  • Swab along the lower half of the crease behind your ear for 1 minute.
  • Note - pull your ear forward with one hand and pull your hair out of the way if necessary.


  • Wet the swab with the PCR water included in your kit. (Do not use regular water.)
  • Swab around the inside of each nostril at the depth of the cotton on the swab for 30 seconds each.


  • Wet the swab with the PCR water included in your kit. (Do not use regular water.)
  • Swab in a circular motion around the base of the head of the penis for one minute (where the head of the penis intersects the shaft).
  • Note - if your penis is uncircumcised, pull back your foreskin first.


  • Wet the swab with the PCR water included in your kit. (Do not use regular water.)
  • Swab the area just inside the vaginal opening, to the depth of the cotton on the swab for one minute.
  • Note - spread your labia with one hand and use the other to swab.


  • Put the used swab into the vial and stir it for 1 minute to transfer the bacteria.
  • Discard the swab in the trash.
  • Close the tube tightly and shake vigorously for 1 minute.


  • All of kits include a secure mailer, so that you can send your samples right back to us.
  • US kits come with prepaid postage. Just drop the envelope in the mail.



What is uBiome?

uBiome is a microbiome sequencing service that provides information and tools for you to explore the populations of bacteria that live on and inside your body. Based on research from the NIH Human Microbiome Project, we've perfected the technology to perform large-scale microbiome studies.

Here's how it works: we send you a kit, and you send us back a sample from your mouth, nose, skin, gut, or genitals. We sequence it for you in our lab here in San Francisco, and you can then login to see visualizations and comparisons of your data. We want everyone to be able to explore their own microbiome while advancing research on a massive scale at this new frontier of science. 

How can you tell which bacteria are in my sample?

uBiome finds out how many bacterial friends you have using 16S-sequencing on the Illumina Next Generation Sequencing platform.  16S is a ribosomal gene present in bacterial DNA, which makes it possible for us to classify bacteria all the way down to the genus level while filtering out any human genetic material.

Basically we look at a section of DNA that is only found in bacteria and is very good at telling us what kinds of bacteria are in your samples. 16S-sequencing is the standard sequencing method generally used in microbiome studies.

What kind of results will I get?

After your sample has been analyzed, you get to be an explorer and learn about the vast rainforest of bacteria in your body. Logging in to, you'll see detailed information on each of these bacteria - what their names are, how many of each kind there are, what their functions are in the body. 

You may find yourself curious to compare your results with the aggregate results of everyone who's done the test, and with specific groups of people. Say you want to look at how your microbiome compares to vegans, or smokers, or people on antibiotics. You can do that!

It’s important to be aware that uBiome is designed to be a tool for personal research, NOT a diagnostic tool. You won't find any predictions about your future health. And your results will not diagnose any medical condition.

What you will find is a chance to better understand your microbiome, how you compare to others, and even how you compare to yourself over time. (Before and after going gluten-free or starting a new medication, for example.) Last but not least, you may find a warm glow in your heart from knowing that you are contributing to advancements in research that may have tremendous benefit for the future of human health and wellbeing.

Is your project community-driven?

Yes! We are involving the public in data collection, hypothesis-generation, and hypothesis testing. Our goal is to build a community around long-term sequencing of the human microbiome. We want to engage and involve you in the process. Let us know about your big vision, your awesome scientific idea, or anything we screwed up at

Will my gut sample smell?

No. The amount of the sample needed is quite small, and the cotton swab goes immediately into the lysing solution in a closed container. Nothing smelly at all.

Does the uBiome research study have Institutional Review Board approval?

Yes. An Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee that approves, oversees and reviews biomedical and behavioral research involving humans. They determine whether or not research should be done, and they advocate for the individual participant (like you!)

uBiome has received research study approval from E&I Review Services. If you choose to participate in our research study you will need to read and sign our electronic Informed Consent form that outlines the risks and benefits of participation. We are committed to caring ethically for everyone in our community.

Can I sequence a child? A baby?

Yes, your children can have their microbiome sequenced with parental permission. For kids under age 18, a parent or guardian will need to sign a consent form, confirming they would like us to process their child’s sample. For kids over 13, they will also need to give their assent (non-binding approval) to make sure they understand what microbiome sequencing involves. See the full consent forms at 

How do you ensure the privacy of users' data?

Your privacy is our top priority.  From a technology standpoint to ensure the privacy of your data and your results we employ multiple layers of encryption and the highest levels of computer security. You control your data, and can choose whether or not you consent to having your data be anonymized and aggregated into our uBiome research studies.

What type of sequencing do you do?

uBiome uses 16S-sequencing on the Illumina Next Generation Sequencing platform.  16S is a ribosomal gene present in bacterial DNA that makes it possible for us to classify bacteria at the genus (and sometimes species) level and also filter out genetic material from humans and other organisms. This is the same sequencing method used in the bulk of past studies in this area, so it gives us the greatest ability to compare with past studies, making your data more relevant.

Will I be able to download my raw data?

Absolutely! From your sample's Dashboard, you will have the opportunity to click either "Raw Reads" or "Raw Taxonomy."

Clicking Raw Reads will prompt the download of the FASTQ files right off our sequencer. (Note: These are for our more advanced users.) Clicking Raw Taxonomy will prompt a pop-up window with your data in JSON format. Essentially, this will look like quite a bit of gibberish. Copying all of this text and pasting it into this website will generate a useful .csv.

For a more complete tutorial on what to do with your raw data, read Richard Sprague's article in the July issue of O'Reilly Biocoder (free download here).

I'm interested in doing a study. Would uBiome be interested in collaborating?

Yes. Our goal is to build a community around long-term sequencing of the human microbiome. We want to engage and involve you in the process. Please contact us at

How do I get the latest uBiome news?

We post on our blog as well as on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can also join our mailing list. We welcome your feedback and will strive to answer any questions. If you have questions, comments, ideas, or anything just send us an email at