By 6 April 2020 | Categories: feature articles


With Covid-19 or Coronavirus, however you refer to it, being on everyone’s mind at present, the worrying threat of the virus has pushed the importance of sustained wellbeing and health right to the forefront of peoples’ and nations’ agenda alike.

It is therefore quite synchronistic that South African biotech  company Next Biosciences in partnership with leading microbiome company Viome held its launch of Gut Intelligence Test in South Africa at the beginning of this month.

From mouth to body

Like the personalized health based on your genetic profile, the Viome Gut Intelligence test runs off the premise that people are unique individuals, and that their healthcare and diet should match that fact. “The future of treatment is more about personalized diagnostics rather than the traditional approach of one treatment to fit all,” explained Dr Yvonne Holt, the Chief Medical Officer of Next Biosciences

To this end, the test analyses an individual’s microbiome and helps determine which foods a person should eat more of, which ones they should minimise and which foods they would be best served by avoiding based on their individual needs. It also recommends personalised supplements assist in achieving the healthiest microbiome possible.

Upon completion of the test, done at home and then sent to the lab by Viome, all your recommendations are laid out in an app format, and you can also view them in a pdf (the app, available on iOS and Android, is more convenient).

Yvonne Holt

Trust your gut

So why is your microbiome important? Holt explained that a healthy human adult harbours 100 trillion bacteria in their gut alone, which is ten times the number of human cells in the human body. Still not convinced? How about this for food for thought – a person’s biome is fifty times larger than the human genome.

Furthermore, Holt notes that there is significant scientific evidence that there is a link between one’s gut and one’s brain, between the health of one’s microbiome and whether or not they suffer from neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimers or dementia, for example).

Stephan Barrie, the vice president of Viome, added that everything from our aging process to every disease that afflicts a person, from cancer, metabolic disease and gastrointestinal disease, to neurological diseases, all have an imbalance in one’s microbiome at their root.

Mind yourself

Admittedly, the biotech offering substantiates the proverb you are what you eat. But, Sarah Braithwaite, who related her experience battling with an auto-immune disease, note that bringing one’s diet into balance is part of the solution. She also encouraged a holistic view to wellbeing, namely by managing one’s emotions and stresses through mindfulness. The latter, she noted, not only impacts on how the brain functions in a positive way, it also calms one’s nervous system and boosts the immune system.

Both are certainly a major benefit at this time.

As to what it costs to get insight into your microbiome and your gut health in line? There is good news and bad news. The bad news it’s not cheap. The good news is it is not outrageously expensive either, and with Coronavirus making people reassess how much they value their health, very worth it.

Expect to pay R3 990 for the first test and then R3 400 for subsequent tests (which you would probably do several months apart after changing your diet significantly or if you take a course of antibiotics).

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