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Microbe Research Raises Privacy Concerns

HEALTHCARE PRIVACY—U.S.

November 4, 2013

NPR reports on the American Gut Project, a “citizen science,” crowd sourced, microbiome initiative designed to help scientists learn more about the friendly and dangerous microbes living in and around the human body. Organizers of the project need reams of personal information—including swabbed samples and detailed logs of a subject’s daily diet—to help illuminate the research, but some bioethicists are expressing privacy concerns. One expert said, “If you have privacy concerns at all, you shouldn’t do it.” Though the information is confidential, there’s no guarantee that it will be protected and it’s possible that a volunteer’s DNA samples might inadvertently become public, the bioethicist noted.
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