Tiny Health Strain Tracking Frequently Asked Questions



Exciting news! Tiny Health is the first company to launch probiotic strain tracking for our at-home microbiome tests. Below you'll find answers to frequently asked questions about this advancement. To get access to this feature, login to your Tiny Health account to explore your existing report, or purchase any gut or vaginal health test.

What are strains? 

A strain is a variant or subtype of a microbe. Just as dog breeds like Chihuahuas and Great Danes differ vastly, so do strains within the same bacterial species. This diversity is crucial, as even minor genetic variations can lead to significant health outcomes.

For example, there are many different types of strains of E.coli.  Many E. coli strains are not harmful to your health, but there are a few that can make you very sick. Therefore, it’s important to know what strain of E. coli may be living in your gut. Similarly, while many Bifidobacterium species are beneficial, they can have vastly different functional capacities with some strains being much better suited to breaking down prebiotics like human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). By tracking strains, we’re able to detect which strains are potentially coming from your probiotic, versus which strains may be passed from mom to baby or through the environment. 

What is strain tracking, and how does it benefit me?

Strain tracking allows for a more detailed analysis of the gut microbiome at a strain level, going beyond merely identifying the species of bacteria present and their functions. 

This powerful tool allows you to identify and monitor specific strains of bacteria, such as probiotics or opportunistic pathogens, in your gut. This technology provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of your probiotic regimen or the presence of potentially harmful pathogens.

*Please note that only Phase 1: Probiotic Strain Tracking has been released. Phase 2 which includes strain tracking of Opportunistic Pathogens will be released in the second half of 2024. 

What are the applications for probiotic strain tracking?  

Strain tracking is a versatile tool with a wide range of uses, spanning from medical settings and food production to nutrition and disease monitoring. At Tiny Health, our new strain-tracking feature initially focuses on probiotic strain tracking. This exciting development offers the possibility to check if the probiotics you're taking are detectable in your gut. While it's important to note that there might be instances where these probiotics are not detected, this does not necessarily mean they aren't beneficial. This tool can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your probiotics and contribute to a better understanding of your gut health.

One significant impact of this technology is on infants and toddlers. Adults have diverse and stable guts that results in many probiotics having a transient nature where they pass through without colonizing, however, in children, their microbiomes are just getting established and probiotic strains have a higher likelihood of colonizing and making up a significant portion of the microbial community. Identifying and understanding these strains in infants' guts can help you better assess the effectiveness of your probiotic regimen, allowing for quick adjustments when needed.

What can I learn from Tiny Health’s probiotic strain tracking? 

Probiotic strain tracking offers insights into the effectiveness of your probiotics, helping you make informed decisions about your gut health. 

Will Tiny Health strain tracking be able to detect strains from my probiotic? 

We have over 234 probiotic strains in our database. If you have 1% or more relative abundance of one of these strains, then it is very likely we’ll be able to detect it.  

It is important to note that a probiotic strain may be very similar to other probiotic strains used at  multiple probiotic companies, and while we may be able to detect the strain we may not be able to tell you exactly which probiotic brand it came from. You may also see probiotic brands listed that you or your child are not taking because of how similar those strains are. For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is a beneficial probiotic strain that is found in many probiotic brands, such as Culturelle and Lovebug. When we detect this strain, it is unclear which probiotic it may have come from.

Where do I find probiotic strains on my report?

In the ‘Beneficial microbes’ category of your report, you’ll find a section titled ‘Common probiotic species’. In this list, some species may highlight a number of ‘strains detected’. Click any of these species to view the ‘Strains detected’ section with details. 

The Beneficial microbes category includes a table of Common Probiotic Species, noting species where strains were detected in the sample.

If any probiotic strains are detected in your sample, they are displayed within each metric in the Beneficial microbes category.

Why wasn’t my probiotic strain detected? 

Tiny Health has 234 of common probiotic strains in our database.  We can detect probiotic strains if they have a relative abundance of 1% or greater in your gut.  If we don’t detect your probiotic strain it could be for a few reasons: 

  • Your probiotic is working, but less than 1% of the probiotic strain has colonized your gut. This is more common for adults, where Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains rarely colonize, but at the same time still have been shown to have a beneficial impact. Even if your strain is not detected, your probiotic could still be having a positive impact on  your gut microbiome. 
  • Your probiotic may not be doing what we expect. Not all probiotics are created equal. It’s possible that your probiotic is not working as expected, especially in babies where we hope to see Bifidobacterium strains colonize the gut. To get a better understanding of the benefits of your probiotic and where your gut needs extra support, check out your entire report, alongside strain tracking.
  • We may not have your probiotic strain in our database. Probiotic strains are not always shared by a probiotic company because it is part of their formulation. Your probiotic may be working, but we may not have the specific strain in our database. Please feel free to reach out to our support team at hello@tinyhealth.com if you have questions about a specific probiotic strain.  

My report detected a probiotic strain, why was my probiotic brand not listed? 

It's important to note that some probiotic companies may choose to protect their formulations by only listing the probiotic species and not the specific strains on their nutrition labels. This means that while we may be able to detect a probiotic strain in your gut, we cannot confirm that the strain is included in the formulation of the brand you are using.

Additionally, multiple probiotic companies may use the same probiotic strain. For example, Brand A may publicly disclose their use of a specific strain, so if we detect that strain in your gut, we list Brand A as a potential source of this probiotic strain. However, the same strain could also be used by Brand B, but it may not be public knowledge that Brand B includes that strain in their formulation. Therefore, while strain tracking can provide valuable insights, it's important to consider these limitations when interpreting the results.

I see strains from probiotic brands that I’ve never heard of before or didn’t take. Why is it there? 

There are many ways to pick up strains aside from directly taking a probiotic. These may be strains from probiotics that other family members are taking that may potentially be passed on to you, or they may be strains from the environment or interactions with others at work or school. Some strains may also overlap with other products you’re consuming (e.g., yogurts, kefir).

When will strain tracking for Opportunistic Pathogens be available? 

Tiny Health plans to launch strain tracking for Opportunistic Pathogens later this year, expanding the tool's capabilities to include monitoring potentially harmful bacteria. This development will provide users with a more comprehensive view of their gut microbiome, aiding in proactive gut health care.

What are the applications for Opportunistic Pathogens strain tracking?  

Strain tracking for Opportunistic Pathogens will allow you to identify and monitor the presence of these potentially harmful bacteria in your gut. This information can help you and your healthcare provider take proactive measures to maintain a healthy gut microbiome and prevent potential health issues.

For example, there are many different types of strains of E.coli.  Many E. coli strains are not harmful to your health, but there are a few that can make you very sick. Therefore, it’s important to know what strain of E. coli you have.

*Please note that only Phase 1: Probiotic Strain Tracking has been released. Phase 2 which includes strain tracking of Opportunistic Pathogens will be released in the second half of 2024.