Microbe Biometric

Interesting:

Franzosa and colleagues used publicly available microbiome data produced through the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), which surveyed microbes in the stool, saliva, skin, and other body sites from up to 242 individuals over a months-long period. The authors adapted a classical computer science algorithm to combine stable and distinguishing sequence features from individuals' initial microbiome samples into individual-specific "codes." They then compared the codes to microbiome samples collected from the same individuals' at follow-up visits and to samples from independent groups of individuals.

The results showed that the codes were unique among hundreds of individuals, and that a large fraction of individuals' microbial "fingerprints" remained stable over a one-year sampling period. The codes constructed from gut samples were particularly stable, with more than 80% of individuals identifiable up to a year after the sampling period.

Posted on May 15, 2015 at 6:20 AM • 22 Comments

Comments

WinterMay 15, 2015 6:36 AM

The obvious response is "Oh, shit!"

I am not sure how useful this is. This type of "evidence" is even easier to "plant" than hairs and fingerprints.

ScottMay 15, 2015 7:53 AM

Human micro flora consortia are stable as long as the individual hasn't taken any immunosuppressants, broad spectrum anti-microbial agents, or had recent chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Which is to say, not stable at all.

Good luck with that, and chain of custody issues, especially if you're using small subunit rRNA markers to ID the micro flora.

hermanMay 15, 2015 8:05 AM

So now I need not only worry about cameras in the restrooms, but also about sensors in the plumbing?

Bob S.May 15, 2015 8:15 AM

There's a lot of common sense face validity to the concept of unique bio-flora.

What's different these days is that we have the scientific ability to verify that suspicion. What's scary is that based on even today's technologies we can envision some new government program instituting the Bio-Factor Freedom Act which will mandate collecting personal bacteria scans for everyone in order to make us safe from the threat of terrorism. (Then the data base will be stolen or abused, of course.)

Maybe the mass surveillance movement will get so extreme there will be an anti-surveillance movement. Probably not though. Snooping on the neighbor is simply too much fun not to mention so very profitable.

bilMay 15, 2015 8:20 AM

Basically, what Scott said.

"The codes constructed from gut samples were particularly stable, with more than 80% of individuals identifiable up to a year after the sampling period."

That would make sense if the individuals made no major dietary change (such as high carb to low carb), had not recently taken a broad spectrum antibiotic, had not lost a lot of weight, had not become pregnant, had not gotten infected with a gut bug such as E. Coli or had a compromise to the gut or the immune system. Not to mention we're just getting started with fecal transplants and probiotics.

EVMMay 15, 2015 8:29 AM

Three factor auth:

Something I ate
Something I lost
Something I forgot

:-)

albertMay 15, 2015 9:42 AM

Funny, low success rates never seemed to stop anyone before.
.
Sorry, I forgot for a moment...it's still about money, isn't it?
.
Suggestion for further research: Find the neurochemical imbalance that causes folks to think up these hare-brained schemes, then find a drug to cure it. Let the testing begin on the LE/IC folks, and politicians could use a dose as well.
.
.
...

WheresWallace?May 15, 2015 9:43 AM

So, can we assume it is no longer safe to place steaming turds in paper bags, set them on fire, and then lay them at the foot of the Maryland NSA headquarters for fear of pending craptonalysis using the Wallace algorithm?

Another fundamental liberty lost.

Earl KillianMay 15, 2015 10:58 AM

I once calculated that there was 50 MB of information that could be stored in the human genome exploiting the redundancy in codons (64 possibilities encode for 20 different proteins, 1 start, and 1 stop symbol, so about 1.5 bits per codons). I imagine the microbiome offers far more information storage. I suppose it could be used for steganography to infiltrate and exfiltrate information. Will we soon be subject to microbiome searches at the borders?

Clive RobinsonMay 15, 2015 11:20 AM

@ Bil,

Not to mention we're just getting started with fecal transplants and probiotics.

Funnily after the obligitory "yuch" my mind turned to how to cheat it and that was the first thing that came to mind....

I must be sick :-) atleast my quacks think so... which is why they have me permanently on oral broad spectrum anti-Bs topped up every few weaks when I get flu like symptoms (chils&fever) with some rather expensive IV infusions that make my veins look like they have had pencils shoved in them all the way up to the neck :-(

@ EVM

+1

@ WheresWallace?,

So, can we assume it is no longer safe to place steaming turds in paper bags, set them on fire, and then lay them at the foot of the Maryland NSA headquarters for fear of pending craptonalysis using the Wallace algorithm?

Ever heard of Cryptovirology or Cryptobiology?

Not quite what you might think ;-)

Marcos El MaloMay 15, 2015 11:25 AM

Obvious applications in biometrics/authorization as we transition from wearable computing to swallowable and stuffable computing devices.

As others noted, it is possible to drastically alter one's biome, so I'm not worried about stool pigeons.

GaryMay 15, 2015 1:42 PM

This approach is already being used by communities to track people who don't clean up their dog's poop. They require a saliva sample to obtain a dog tag, then if poop is found around the community, a sample is analyzed and the owner is fined.

http://www.pooprints.com

Bob PaddockMay 15, 2015 3:20 PM

"permanently on oral broad spectrum anti-Bs topped"

I pray they are not one of: Levofloxacin (Levaquin), Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), Moxifloxacin (Avelox), Norfloxacin (Noroxin), Ofloxacin (Floxin), Gemifloxacin (Factive) and Finafloxacin (Xtoro) or anything else in the Fluoroquinolone class.

These should be taken off the market and the FDA knows it! Just told them that on their Facebook page today too, just to let you know in case I have an 'accident'.

Levaquin made it so my wife could not walk from the tendinitis that it caused. I watched her crawl around for a YEAR on skateboard like thing so that her ankles would heal. Leavaquin also contributed to her suicide.

This is NOT a rare reaction as the FDA and doctors tell people. Most people fail to make the connect to their poor health and the antibiotics that they may have taken months ago. Some people react instantly, most don't.

See her medical records and what this crap did to her:

http://kpaddock.com/doku.php/resources/fluoroquinolones

"How Many People are at Risk?

The exact rate of adverse reactions to fluoroquinolones is difficult to determine. Studies of adverse reactions to fluoroquinolones have noted that, “During clinical trials, the overall frequencies of adverse effects associated with (fluoroquinolones) to vary between 4.4 and 20%.” Just the fact that the spread is so large, a 15.6% spread in frequency of adverse reactions is a HUGE difference, implies that the actual occurrence of adverse reactions is difficult to establish or unknown.

With the FDA figures above noting that 26.9 million unique patients were given fluoroquinolones in 2011, if you just take the conservative adverse reaction figure of 4.4%, you’ll get a horrifying number of people with adverse reactions in 2011 alone – 1,183,600 people. 20% of 26.9 million is 5,380,000 people adversely effected. That is scary. Those numbers are truly frightening given the severity of the adverse effects described above." -- http://www.hormonesmatter.com/fluoroquinolones-101-antibiotics-to-avoid

http://www.fluoroquinolonestories.com

https://www.facebook.com/FluoroquinoloneToxicity login is not required. Keeps up with the growing press coverage.

This crap will change your Microbe Biometric for the short life you will have after talking them. :-(

Coyne TibbetsMay 15, 2015 10:07 PM

"The codes constructed from gut samples were particularly stable, with more than 80% of individuals identifiable up to a year after the sampling period."

Sounds like a 1-in-5 failure rate to me. I wouldn't convict a dog-walker on that probability.

--

@Bob Paddock: Levaquin made it so my wife could not walk from the tendinitis that it caused. I watched her crawl around for a YEAR on skateboard like thing so that her ankles would heal. Leavaquin also contributed to her suicide.

I took it once without problems. The second time, after the second pill, I discovered I had a tremor and emotional regulation issues. I discontinued the prescription immediately. The symptoms weren't permanent but were scary enough while they lasted.

That was the first time I have ever had a reaction to a drug: can't recommend the reaction or the drug.

DaveMay 16, 2015 12:09 PM

@Bob: I've been diagnosed with Fibromyalia. It's not a real good fit for what's wrong with me (fatigue, muscle weakness, cognitive & memory impairment), but it's all they could label me with. I came down sick rather suddenly. Sitting right next to me is a old, and empty, bottle of Ciprofloxacin. Whether it's related or not, I thank you for your most enlightening post!

Michael And Ingrid HerouxMay 17, 2015 4:38 PM

That is probably why the spies that live downstairs from us never put their trash out for city pick-up like the rest of the tenants do. Everyday when they leave they take their trash and recycles with them and they dump it somewhere else but they never use the garbage or recycle bins provided by the landlord. It is suspicious seeing them carry it out every morning. Thanks

tyrMay 21, 2015 1:53 AM


I think Cipro is a flourine compound which is effective
anti-life but bad news for the patient. There are a few
Datura abusers but the effects on the nervous system are
enough to scare away the rational.

The gut biome is usually in a state of equilibrium with
each participant having adjusted its territory against
the rest. A quick way to change this is drinking milk
if you don't usually, or a small spoonful of garden
dirt will do the trick for adults. Trying to get a
good balance internally is why babies are always
putting things in their mouths. Once that stage passes
most never think about it again.

International travelers usually have a short period of
adjustment to the local bacteria, it also exercises the
mental control of your sphincter muscles.

So which government agency has volunteered for the task
of collecting and sampling this biometric treasure trove?

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of IBM Resilient.