Your body is home to trillions of microorganisms — with as many bacterial cells as human ones.¹ Fortunately, this collection of microbes that we call the microbiome evolved alongside us, and they have a vested interest in keeping us alive and well.² But how do you know if your microbiome is healthy?
Viome is one of the first and most respected microbiome testing companies to sell tests directly to consumers. Viome aims to provide you with the most comprehensive understanding of your microbiome at this time and even provides personalized supplements to optimize its performance. We’ve tested both the microbiome testing kits and the personalized supplement program, researched Viome’s approaches, and even visited Viome’s lab to learn more about its methodology and help you decide whether it’s worth a try.
Viome’s sophisticated tests provide insights into your gut microbiome, biological age, and nutritional needs, while customized probiotics and supplements help you easily take action to get healthier. The company recently developed a simple test to screen for oral and throat cancer, and it’s constantly evolving toward new tests and more accurate sequencing methods. This is a phenomenal value that we would recommend to anyone who can afford it.
At Innerbody Research, we extensively test health services we review, including Viome. All told, our team has spent over 350 hours testing and researching Viome and its competitors, poring over hundreds of scholarly articles about the microbiome, gut health, and genomic sequencing.
When it comes to Viome, we tried the test kits for ourselves and also tested the resulting supplement recommendations. Additionally, we paid a visit to Viome’s labs to get a first-hand look at its technology and techniques. This experience gave us unique insight into the company’s commitment to quality, transparency, and service. (And by the way, our testing team liked these products enough to recommend them to family and friends.)
Like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy. We’ll continue to keep tabs on Viome’s growth and that of its competitors to ensure this article is up to date.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles.
From our testing and research and comparative analysis of at-home microbiome test kit options, we’re very impressed by Viome. Our team assessed them across key evaluation criteria: results, privacy, cost, customer care, and efficiency. Our results consideration weighs a bit more heavily on our ultimate rating for Viome or any at-home microbiome testing company because those results are going to guide your hand in future wellness decisions, whether they’re medicinal, dietary, or behavioral. With that much potential to influence your daily life, those results had better be informative and useful.
The next most important criterion is privacy. There is a tremendous amount of personal data changing hands and being evaluated here. Information about your health and wellness — and even critical genetic information — is involved. It’s imperative that companies respect and protect your privacy in health testing.
Cost, customer care, and efficiency are all parts of the transactional experience with Viome, and they receive roughly equal weighting when considering our final assessment. Ultimately, Viome scored well in each category and beat out every competitor in all but pure cost (though from a value standpoint, Viome’s pricing is hard to beat).
Let’s take a look at each criterion in more depth.
Viome’s results are where the company shines. They offer incredibly high accuracy and reliability thanks to Viome’s consistent investment in evolving tech and testing methods. Unlike many other companies that rely on DNA sequencing, Viome uses RNA, which provides a better picture of active microorganisms in the gut.³
The documentation you receive after testing is comprehensive and easy to follow. It lists common foods you should avoid, as well as those that are particularly good for your current microbial composition. Viome’s Health Intelligence Test takes this process even further, detailing things like biological age and the health of your stress response, immune system, and more. The company’s most comprehensive screening, the Full Body Intelligence Test, adds cardiometabolic health and even cognitive wellness to the picture.
Viome doesn’t simply list foods and substances to add to your diet or avoid. It gives you deeper information about why these recommendations make sense specifically for you based on your test results. You’ll get to explore the clinical studies that underpin Viome’s recommendations if you want to dig deeper. Other companies in the space can give you similar guidance, but their reports are either poorly written and hard to follow or lack meaningful depth beyond a few generic recommendations.
Our testers uniformly saw benefits from taking the personalized probiotics, prebiotics, and supplements Viome provided. After about a week, they noticed increased bowel regularity and decreased brain fog. In one case, a tester with mild GERD and gastritis saw his symptoms improve within 2-3 weeks of use. We can confidently say that these supplements make a noticeable difference when you take them. They’ll likely increase your quality of life and possibly reduce the symptoms of disorders related to gut health.
Floré is the only other testing company we could recommend if you’re looking for custom probiotics, but its offerings are a little more limited than Viome’s (no supplements), and its testing methods are a little less accurate and comprehensive. You can find the next most accurate sequencing method behind Viome’s through Tiny Health testing, but that company doesn’t offer any probiotics or supplements whatsoever.
Viome is upfront about its data policies. It commits not to sell any of your data, and it ensures that it contains nothing that could be traced back to you. Once Viome uses your sample and analysis to provide you with results, the company can store these materials for up to 10 years. Fortunately, it does so having scrubbed them of your personal information, so the material itself can’t be tied to you in any way.
Something that separates Viome from most of the competition out there is its sequencing method, which leverages RNA rather than DNA. That provides an additional level of privacy, as RNA databases are all but nonexistent when it comes to identifying individuals. That means that de-identified data from your sample can’t be used alongside ancestral or criminal DNA databases to figure out its owner.
Companies like Viome may sometimes be subpoenaed for user data, including DNA, when it’s available. Viome’s competitors could be forced to hand over some of your sensitive information in such a case, but the data Viome can provide is much more limited in scope.
Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test sits at a comparable price point to a lot of the competition. Still, the results it offers and its ability to turn those into personalized probiotic, prebiotic, and supplement regimens are a significant improvement over other companies’ offerings. Here’s a quick look at how Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test compares with other top gut microbiome tests on the market:
|Base price||Probiotics available?||Subscription available?|
|Viome Gut Intelligence||$149||Custom|
The subscription costs for Viome’s personalized products are quite high at first glance, but a deeper look comparing them to the costs of other high-end probiotics (that aren’t formulated specifically for your unique microbiome) reveals a more reasonable position in the marketplace.
|Cost per month||Tailored to your microbiome||Contains prebiotics||Testing and retesting|
|Viome Gut Intelligence||$70||Free every six months|
|Ritual Gut Health Synbiotic||$54|
When you consider both the free retesting and the fact that your probiotic formula is tailored to — and evolves with — your tested microbiome, the value advantage Viome offers is clear.
Viome is fast and generous with its responses to customer inquiries. Our testers repeatedly found answers to their questions without having to look any further than the chat feature on the company’s website, the other end of which is real humans and not bots. One of its most generous features is that the company will update you with improved results if it uses your archived sample with any new technology or methods it develops.
If there’s one thing we’d like to see Viome incorporate, it’s the option to have a one-on-one consultation with a care provider (e.g., a nutritionist or gastroenterologist) who can walk new users through sometimes complicated health concerns. Viome’s results do an excellent job spelling out even some of the most complex topics for most people, but there will still be questions for many. And other companies offer consultations — sometimes for free, other times as part of memberships like you see with Tiny Health, and still other times for a fee.
Compared to at-home tests in other sectors like sexual health or general wellness, processing samples for the human microbiome can take longer. But Viome’s turnaround time was right in line with what you’d expect from this kind of testing, if not a little quicker. Shipping isn’t lightning-fast, but our testers routinely received kits within five business days, which we found reasonable. Personalized supplements came in the mail a bit faster, but it still takes a little over a week for Viome to formulate them.
Photo by Innerbody Research
Founded in 2016, Viome is a nutritional genomics company that aims to empower people with wellness advice based on the composition of their gut microbiome and their cellular and mitochondrial health. It offers trustworthy, convenient at-home tests and a secure interface for reviewing the results and recommendations. Viome’s services also include subscription options for those who want to incorporate personalized prebiotics, probiotics, and supplements into their routines based on their results. You can use Viome strictly to test and learn, or you can opt for the ongoing subscription services, which include free follow-up tests every six months.
We’ve covered Viome for several years and have watched as it has grown to offer new tests and services, including its recently developed oral and throat cancer screening. Compared to the rest of the gut microbiome testing field, Viome seems to have a head start on faster, more accurate testing procedures.
Viome’s testing is ideal for just about everyone, as we all have unique microbiomes. Learning more about the makeup of the collection of microbes in your gut can be an essential first step in diagnosing or even treating certain diseases and disorders. And with Viome’s additional insights into cellular and metabolic performance, most people can discover ways to improve their health. Of course, that’s just on the testing side.
Viome’s prebiotic, probiotic, and supplement subscriptions can offer benefits for most people, as well. The fact that the company develops these from a catalog of more than 200 components based on your results means you’re more likely to feel a difference than if you blindly purchased a multivitamin and hoped for the best.
It’s worth noting that Viome no longer advises pregnant women or women looking to become pregnant to utilize custom supplements. They can still enjoy personalized prebiotics and probiotics, but Viome has been working on a supplement package for perinatal women for some time, and it has yet to materialize. The reason for this remains something of a mystery, especially as the list of ingredients Viome uses for its supplements includes several essentials for pregnancy (for instance, a highly bioavailable form of vitamin B9). For now, we recommend Ritual as a first choice for prenatal vitamins.
Here’s a brief video summarizing our findings about Viome and also showing you what you’ll receive when you order a testing kit.
Viome offers four tests in all — three focused on your microbiome and cellular health and one dedicated to detecting oral and throat cancer:
Viome sets itself apart from the competition by constantly pushing the technological envelope to access the most advanced testing methods and infrastructure available. It uses two types of advanced science and technology applications that make an enormous difference in its efficacy:
Metatranscriptomic sequencing involves looking at the entire ‘transcriptome’ of all the organisms in your gut.⁴ In short, Viome does not analyze the DNA of the microbes to determine what species are present. Instead, it tests the RNA.
RNA, like DNA, is a nucleic acid. While DNA is all the genetic information in an organism, RNA is the functional output of this information. Metatranscriptomic sequencing sequences the RNA of all the microorganisms present and actively expressing genes. Because DNA can leave a signature behind even after a microorganism has died, it can obscure the picture of your gut’s microbial community. Viome’s approach here provides a better reflection of the activities of all the organisms and how these activities could impact your health. It’s a better way to test.
Viome’s artificial intelligence is how it analyzes and interprets its findings against a wealth of scientific data about the microbiome. This machine learning allows Viome to understand the different species in your gut, what they likely mean for your health, and how to modify them for optimal wellness.
The more people who use the service, the more data the company can analyze — developing the pipeline, identifying new trends, and making it more intelligent by the day. Looking around at the field of competitors, it seems as though Viome is the only company utilizing artificial intelligence in its testing and results, and it’s been alone in this sense for years. Any competitor who starts using AI for its results now will likely be far behind in the process.
Viome’s combined use of the above technologies tuned for cancer cell detection in the mouth and throat allowed its technology to receive breakthrough device approval from the FDA. It utilizes this particular technology in its Discovery CancerDetect for Oral and Throat Cancer.
According to Viome, the FDA grants such approval to technology that “represents unparalleled innovation with no cleared alternatives, has the potential to be a more effective treatment or diagnosis of life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating human disease or conditions, and has the opportunity to benefit the lives of many patients.”
Your microbiome is the entire population of microorganisms that live on and inside your body. These microscopic beings provide tremendous health benefits when the best of them have the opportunity to thrive. This collection includes fungi, viruses, and nonpathogenic parasitic protozoa — not just bacteria.² It’s so crucial that many scientists have begun to regard it as an organ unto itself.
Often, when people talk about their microbiome, they’re referring to the microorganisms that populate their intestines. We call this the gut microbiome. Healthy guts have thousands of species of microorganisms coexisting in relative harmony like a sprawling metropolis. The more research we do into the various functions this population performs, the more we find how critical its health is to our well-being.
There are bacteria, for example, that break down specific proteins that our body cannot digest alone. This results in greater bioavailability of nutrients in the food we eat. Taking in more nutrients from less food is just one of the ways these microorganisms helped us evolve into the efficient species we are today.
Imbalances between “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut appear in many studies as the potential cause for various health problems, many of which center on inflammation.⁵ Other studies draw compelling links between microbiome health and mood disorders like depression.⁶ Tending to the gut microbiome might benefit us in a host of profound ways – improving immunity, providing more restful sleep, protecting us as we age, promoting regularity, and even helping us to think more clearly.
Most microbiome testing runs along similar lines, but Viome’s additional tests require more than just a stool sample. Let’s look at each collection type to better understand the process.
Testing with Viome is pretty straightforward, but whichever of its tests you choose, you’ll have to submit a stool sample. This is understandably not the most exciting kind of sample collection for most people, but Viome does whatever it can to make the process as simple, clean, and safe as possible. The company provides you with a collection pad that adheres to your toilet bowl, as well as a small scooper for actually collecting the sample and depositing it into the included tube. The Viome website has video instructions for added convenience.
Insider Tip: If you’re on a septic system, like a couple of our testers, you can rest assured that these papers are also septic-safe. We checked with Viome to make sure. Whether septic or sewer, just let the paper soak in the toilet for a few minutes prior to flushing.
Viome used to send two different stool collection papers of different sizes in order to accommodate any toilet bowl, but now it sends two of the same collection paper designed to be universal. Our testers found that the new collection paper fit all toilets effectively, which took an element of guesswork out of the process. And the included scooper was effective, even with somewhat stiff bowel movements (likely due to mild dehydration).
Special Offer: 110% OFF Tests with code: INNERBODY
Blood collection with Viome’s Health Intelligence and Full Body Intelligence kits is equally simple and will be a little more familiar for many people. You have to fast for at least eight hours before collecting your blood sample. It’s easiest to perform your collection early in the morning before consuming anything other than water.
The kits provide you with a few automatic retractable lancets to prick your finger and collect blood into slim vials that look a lot like narrow eye droppers. These devices — called MiniVets — soak up blood nicely, so you don’t have to produce too much of it to gather the required amount. One of our testers — who doesn’t always bleed very well — filled his MiniVets with ease.
Saliva collection is definitely the easiest and most straightforward of Viome’s three sample collections. You receive a vial, cap, and small funnel, and you spit through the funnel into the vial. Then, you cap it up, and you’re good to go.
Viome’s pricing is decidedly simple, as it offers three tests and two subscription plans. Here’s a quick look at the options and what they include, and remember that Innerbody Research readers get $110 off test orders with the discount code: INNERBODY and $20 off all other orders with code: INNERBODY20.
As you can see, Viome’s subscription levels offer customized nutritional formulas, either as a simple pre/probiotic mixture or as a complete regimen of prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, and food extracts. We believe the value of this service is exceptionally high, both in terms of cost and convenience. Subscriptions also come with free retesting every six months, so you can see how your new regimen affects your microbiome balance or your health and wellness scores.
You can take the Gut Intelligence or Full Body Intelligence tests on their own and add a supplement plan after you receive your results, but since the test is less expensive with the supplement plan and you have the option to cancel at any time, that is probably the least economical option.
You can also sign up for a Prebiotics + Probiotics plan (no supplements) that still utilizes the Full Body Intelligence Test for $130/month. If you already take a multivitamin and are happy with it, this might be a way to access all the data you might want from the Full Body Intelligence Test with free retesting twice yearly and a monthly supply of pre- and probiotics. But unless you utilize the extra information this test provides, you might find the added $60/month excessive compared to the standard Precision Prebiotics + Probiotics plan, which comes with the Gut Intelligence Test.
It’s becoming increasingly common for FSAs and HSAs to cover gut health tests, either as direct forms of payment or through reimbursements. Viome’s Gut Intelligence Test is eligible for reimbursement with many HSAs and FSAs, but not all. You should check with your plan administrators to be sure if you intend to submit a claim for reimbursement. Viome’s other tests and supplements are not eligible for reimbursement at this time.
Other companies are a little easier to work with, like Floré, which accepts FSA and HSA payments directly. Generally, no insurance companies will cover this kind of at-home testing,
No matter which test you take, Viome designs a tailor-made action plan to help you improve the ecosystem of microbes present in your gut. This plan includes steps to help you improve the overall diversity of microorganisms, reduce the presence of pathogenic microorganisms, and increase the presence of “good” microorganisms.
The report includes foods (and potentially supplements) you should incorporate into your dietary regimen as well as those you should avoid. These personalized diet and supplement recommendations could help you improve:
Insider Tip: Viome tests do not detect food sensitivities or allergies. If you have these, you should not consume foods containing diagnosed or suspected food intolerances, even if your results suggest incorporating them into your diet.
In each reporting area, you’ll be able to drill down deeper as Viome explains its recommendations (why you should avoid a certain food, how a different food would particularly benefit you based on your test results, or how a particular substance added to your supplement regimen could improve your metabolic health, for example). Viome provides links to clinical studies that yielded the results that compelled the company to make these recommendations.
Many recommendations in Viome’s reports are generated with the help of its artificial intelligence system, which stays up-to-date on the latest microbiome research and compares your specific microbiome with data from countless other customers, research papers, genetic sequencing projects, and more.
There’s a good chance that, at some point in your life, you’ve mentioned a drug or an illness to your doctor, and they were unfamiliar with it. Unfortunately, continuing education requirements notwithstanding, doctors are so busy that they may have too little time to consume the vast amount of research published in their fields. So, having a nutritionist or two go over your results and make recommendations may be useful, but having that effort bolstered by AI can lead you and those nutritionists to relevant clinical research they might otherwise have missed, helping make Viome’s results more relevant than any other companies’.
The Gut Intelligence Test [$139 with discount code INNERBODY] focuses strictly on your gut microbiome. It’s the most comparable to other microbiome tests offered by competitors. From a stool sample that you collect at home, Viome can tell you about the health of your microbiome and how you can improve it. It generates a report that shows you the activities of the microorganisms living in your gut, including factors such as:
Viome’s microbiome examination is more thorough than those that some competitors offer. You’ll often find a microbiome test that only looks at bacterial populations, ignoring other microorganisms whose presence plays a vital role in overall gut health. Viome’s test looks at:
The results are both fascinating and actionable. For instance, one of our testers discovered that — among other foods — bell peppers could be problematic in his diet. A couple of easy clicks within Viome’s interface revealed that his gut microbiome contained the pepper mild mottle virus, which studies show can cause gut inflammation.⁷
If you think that one probiotic is as good as another, you might be surprised to find the tremendous diversity of probiotic strains available to consumers. Depending on the state of your gut microbiome and your specific needs and goals, one strain might be an excellent choice for you, while another could have adverse effects. What’s worse, many probiotic manufacturers don’t list the strains they use, only providing you with a genus and species. Since different strains within a species can yield varying results, knowing exactly what you’re taking is crucial.
Building on the value of its tests, Viome has introduced two subscription plans. The Precision Probiotics + Prebiotics plan [$70 with code INNERBODY20] provides you with monthly supplies of a customized probiotic and prebiotic blend formulated in response to your test results.
Viome will formulate a blend of probiotics and prebiotics specifically for the needs of your gut microbiome. It has a pool of over 200 possible bacterial strains and ingredients at its disposal to ensure a personalized mixture using your test results, data from clinical trials and laboratory research, and sophisticated AI that crunches all of this data together to produce the recommendations.
Viome’s Health Intelligence Test [$219 with discount code INNERBODY] includes all of the services offered in the Gut Intelligence Test. It also measures your genes’ activity using RNA sequencing from a blood test.
Integrating the data from this blood sample with the data from your stool sample yields various scores that give you a more complete picture of your health.
The parameters you gain access to with the Health Intelligence Test include the following:
Viome’s metabolic fitness score is a measurement of microbial activity related to blood sugar, insulin resistance, and weight control. Anyone concerned with diabetes, obesity, or other ailments related to weight and blood sugar could gain crucial insights here.
This fascinating score measures how hard your cells have to work to achieve their essential functions. Lower efficiency in cellular activity comes as we age.⁸ Viome’s vast data stores allow it to compare your activity against enough people to determine whether your cells are working more or less efficiently than those of your peers.
Your cellular health score is a 30,000-foot view of your general wellness, measuring inflammation, stress, efficiency, and age. It can identify potential triggers like oxidative stress or environmental toxins, allowing the company to recommend particular supplements. As with each of its other reported scores, Viome gives you ample opportunity to drill much deeper to understand the rationale behind its recommendations.
In the case of Cellular Health, for instance, you could drill down on mitochondrial health — an exploration of how well your cell’s tiny mitochondria are functioning as they provide vital energy that enables cells to do things like repair themselves. In the case of one of our testers, mitochondrial health was suboptimal, and one of the supplements Viome recommended for improving mitochondrial health was quercetin.
Cellular senescence describes the process by which cells cease to divide as they get older. This cessation leads to decreased efficiency and an inability to break down proteins and complete basic cellular operations. Older cells can also contribute to overall toxicity in the body.
Viome’s Full Body Intelligence Test [$289 with discount code INNERBODY] is a relatively recent offering from the company. In addition to screening your blood and stool, this test incorporates a saliva sample to evaluate your oral microbiome.
On top of all the parameters that the Gut Intelligence and Health Intelligence tests offer, the Full Body Intelligence’s additional saliva examination can reveal important aspects of your cognitive and cardiovascular health.⁹
The Full Body Intelligence Test took the place of the Health Intelligence test in Viome’s Complete Plan. This allows the company to more finely tune your regimen of probiotics, prebiotics, and supplements to maximize your health.
Additional parameters the Full Body Intelligence Test evaluates include:
Digestion starts in the mouth, where your unique oral microbiome begins breaking down the food that you chew.¹⁰ But your oral microbiome is much more involved in your health than simply helping you eat. It’s connected to various other systems, its influence over which informs the other two parameters this test examines.
A recent study from Frontiers in Psychiatry paints a fascinating picture of the connection between cognition and oral health, along with what the researchers have dubbed the oral microbiome brain axis (OMBA).¹¹ There is ample evidence that the bacterial balance in your mouth can profoundly affect inflammation levels that can then impact cognition.¹²
Several studies have looked at the connection between oral bacteria and heart health, with many finding that oral dysbiosis — an imbalance in oral bacteria — is directly linked to higher rates of cardiovascular issues.¹³
Viome’s Complete Plan [$179/month with code INNERBODY20] is a subscription plan based on the Full Body Intelligence test. If you can afford it, we highly recommend it. Included in this plan:
The Complete Plan may seem expensive, but if you consider the cost of the average high-quality probiotic ($30-50), the average high-quality prebiotic ($20-40), and the average high-quality multivitamin ($30-50), you could spend $80-$140 on off-the-rack alternatives. And those might have nothing to do with your unique microbiome, nor will they offer free comprehensive testing twice yearly.
Viome made a name for itself in microbiome testing, but the mRNA sequencing and expansive AI system it’s built have far-reaching benefits well beyond microbes. The company’s first foray into other kinds of testing has earned it a breakthrough device approval from the FDA. This is the technology behind Viome Discovery CancerDetect Oral and Throat Cancer.
All the test requires is a saliva sample. The system works similarly to the process Viome uses to evaluate your oral microbiome as part of its Full Body Intelligence Test. The difference is that Viome trained its metatranscriptomic system to detect microbial signatures that only exist in positive cancer patients whose profiles were fed into the system. With that information as an identifier, the system has been able to detect both oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) with incredible accuracy.¹⁴
The CancerDetect system has a ≥94% specificity, a measure of such a test’s ability to identify cancer biomarkers accurately in a positive individual. It also has a ≥90% sensitivity, which means that fewer than 10% of tests result in false negatives.
Based on the fact that Viome has trademarked both the Viome Discovery and CancerDetect names, we hope that this is just the beginning of the company’s ability to detect cancers and other diseases. The company wouldn’t comment as such yet, given the sensitive nature of such developments, but Innerbody readers will be among the first to know when Viome unveils new products.
Photo by Innerbody Research
Viome’s Chief Scientist took us on a tour of the company’s Seattle-area laboratories in late 2021. While visiting its research lab, warehouse, accessioning lab, pre-PCR lab, and sequencing lab, we saw first-hand the techniques and technology it employs to provide exceptionally accurate results and found a company on the cutting edge of its market.
Instead of relying on other companies to develop testing methods, Viome has a research department dedicated to innovations in blood, saliva, and stool testing. That gives it a distinct advantage over other providers, as its testing knowledge extends beyond practical methods and into the very hardware used in the process. The research lab has a quiet hum of excitement about it, and it’s clear that the scientists there are deeply engaged in what they’re doing.
Photo by Innerbody Research
Viome’s latest focus (and the focus of the research scientist shown above) is proteomic testing, specifically related to proteins involved in cancers and food sensitivities. This testing can potentially identify markers for leaky gut, insulin resistance, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), with possible future applications in several critical areas, including digestive inflammation and mental health.¹⁵ One of the culminations of its current research could be a direct-to-consumer food sensitivity test that is both superior to and much more affordable than existing tests on the market, improving accessibility for many Americans.
Viome is also in the process of designing and building processing robots to replace its current technology. On our trip, we encountered Viome’s liquid-handling robot (pictured at the top of this section), which costs about $350,000 and is the size of a large dresser. The machines Viome is designing are about the size of a shoebox. More importantly, they only cost about $25,000, which will significantly reduce costs.
“What we’re doing is disruptive,” said Momo Vuyisich, Chief Scientist at Viome. “We really want to disrupt the healthcare industry because it’s so annoying in so many ways.”
Viome has developed a proprietary preservative that allows its samples to remain stable at room temperature, which was a huge advantage for them. It’s working toward testing microRNA for added specificity in its understanding of gene expression. With each innovation, Viome’s tests get faster, more accurate, and less expensive. And since it controls more and more aspects of its process, it can react to problems without relying on outside companies.
Photo by Innerbody Research
All this furious forward momentum is necessary, though. Dr. Vuyisich is all too aware that Viome is competing in a space defined by rapid innovation.
“If I told you I was going to drive my Tesla 100 mph down the freeway today, you might be disturbed, but would you be flabbergasted by that?” he asks. “No — you can do that easily, right? But if someone told you that in ten years, you could sit in that same Tesla and drive one hundred billion miles per hour, what would you say? No way, right? That’s four times the speed of light! That’s literally not possible. But in genomics, that’s exactly the scale of development that occurred in ten years.”
He added, “In 2004, when we finished the human genome project, you had to have a hangar — like a Boeing-size hangar — full of instruments working for ten years to do what our sequencer can do in one day. And that cost a billion dollars, whereas this costs a thousand dollars.”
Photo by Innerbody Research
Viome’s most impressive piece of current technology might be its sequencing robot, shown above. Without endangering quality control, we couldn’t safely enter the sequencing area, but this $1 million robot can run 20 billion sequences in parallel over 24-48 hours.
Dr. Vuyisich underscored the ambition and fast development that characterize the company based on our experience and testing: “We have to disrupt ourselves.”
At times, Viome appears to surprise even itself with the pace of advancements. One astonished Viome employee overheard our conversation about the shoebox robots, turned to a nearby executive, and asked, “Is that true?”
Viome’s ordering process is very straightforward. You can choose from any of its tests or subscription systems in just a few clicks.
Once you receive your kit, you should register it online. During registration, Viome collects your answers to an extensive questionnaire covering your lifestyle, symptoms you may be experiencing, important details about hip and waist measurements, and other health and nutrition information.
Insider Tip: The Viome questionnaire includes questions about your recent bowel activity. So pay attention to your bowel movements (frequency, consistency, color, etc.) from the time when you place your order to when you register your kit. This will help you provide the most useful information during the questionnaire.
Your answers to these questions help Viome’s AI system make patterns and connections to ensure that your actionable insights are as personalized and helpful as possible.
After registering your test kit, you can collect your stool sample. Viome provides you with two identical stool collection papers. One of these papers is a spare, in case you need it. Simply adhere one of the collection papers to the toilet so that the paper stretches loosely across the bowl and doesn’t droop near the water. Following the instructions, deposit your stool onto the paper and then use the scoop to transfer one pea-sized amount of your stool to the tube. You then seal it and shake it. You can place the paper in the toilet and flush it after a few minutes.
Insider Tip: Our testers found that the stool collection paper generally adheres nicely to the side of the bowl and is easy to remove despite being strong enough not to buckle under the pressure of a bowel movement. However, one of our testers experienced an issue with the adhesive not holding firmly enough on one side of the bowl, possibly due to the weight of the stool. We suggest you use a bit of tape on each side of the paper, just to be safe.
If you ordered the Health Intelligence test, then you’ll also need to collect a blood sample. You must fast for eight hours before collection, so the company advises you to collect your sample early in the morning, not long after you wake up, and before consuming anything other than water.
The Full Body Intelligence test also requires a saliva sample, while the CancerDetect Oral and Throat Cancer test requires only saliva.
Gut Intelligence test results should be available within 2-3 weeks of Viome receiving your sample, while Health Intelligence and Full Body Intelligence Test results will be available within 3-4 weeks. The company will notify you when your results are ready, and you can log into the portal on its website to access them.
If you ordered a test kit by itself, you could put the rich microbiome insights in your report to good use, modifying your dietary and supplement routine. If you subscribed at one of the two possible subscription levels with Viome, then Viome will be in touch to explain the formulation process further.
Viome will send subscribers monthly shipments of supplements formulated to help optimize your specific gut health. These may be only a probiotic and prebiotic mixture, or they may also include additional nutritional supplements depending on your subscription. Take these as directed.
Initially, you’ll have to wait a short while for Viome to design the probiotic formula that best meets your needs. This process took an average of nine days during our testing.
If you subscribe to either of Viome’s monthly plans, you’ll receive a new test kit every six months. This allows the company to assess how well its prebiotics, probiotics, and supplements have been working for you and make any adjustments as needed.
Shipping with Viome is free within the United States. It takes about 3-5 business days for your kit to arrive — depending somewhat on your location. The company will provide you with shipping and delivery notifications via email. Return shipping for your sample is also free and takes a similar amount of time. These shipping times are slightly faster than the average we calculated for all the microbiome tests we’ve taken, though that math was thrown off a bit by extended delays from Ombre while the company was transitioning to a new name and new ownership.
Subscribers who receive probiotic and supplemental shipments from Viome should find improved shipping times for these products. They consistently reached our testers in two days with delivery notifications via email.
Viome is a little strict with its return policy. The only way to get 100% of your money back — including shipping — is if you cancel your order within 24 hours. For kit orders only, you have 13 more days to cancel your order, but Viome will charge a processing fee of up to $35. How that fee is calculated is unclear. Viome does not entertain any return requests for kits after 14 days beyond the date of your order. And any and all subscription products and service sales are final after 24 hours, with no opportunity for returns once the item ships.
This is one of the least forgiving return policies among the companies we’ve investigated. Tiny Health also has a 14-day policy, and it charges a 3% return fee and a processing charge of $30 instead of Viome’s $35. Floré and Ombre have 30 return windows, with Ombre being the only one of those two to charge a fee (25%). BIOHM has the best policy of the bunch, offering 60 days with no fees.
Viome separates any identifiable information from your health data. All data is protected with multiple layers of encryption to ensure its security.
Viome also commits never to sell your data and won’t provide your information to employers, health insurance companies, or law enforcement (unless they are legally required to do so).
When you test with Viome, the company may use your anonymized data to advance its scientific research. Before doing so, it will de-identify all aspects of your sample and results, ensuring that none of the data can be traced back to you as an individual. And because Viome uses RNA data instead of DNA data, its database is all but useless to law enforcement and other entities that would wish to use its data to identify individuals.
By contrast, companies like Floré and Tiny Health utilize DNA, which makes their databases more susceptible to subpoena and search. But DNA isn’t the slam dunk criminal catcher that primetime police dramas would have you believe. Everything from over similarities in DNA between unrelated individuals to lab errors has resulted in wrongful arrests and even convictions from time to time. That makes putting your DNA out there all the more hazardous to your freedom should such an unfortunate, albeit rare, incident place you at the scene of a crime you didn’t commit.
It’s possible that Viome sounds pretty good to you, but you’re not quite sure it’s your best option. Based on the research and testing we’ve done, we believe that Viome will be the best option for most people, but there may be other considerations that could steer you toward an alternative. Let’s look at some of those options to complete the picture.
Viome isn’t the only microbiome testing company out there; it just has the most advanced sequencing methods paired with an artificial intelligence system that generates results based on an obscene quantity of data points. But there are other companies that might cost less and offer more targeted testing or cost a little more and offer types of tests Viome has yet to produce.
Here’s a quick rundown of our favorite microbiome testing companies:
Tiny Health has a microbiome test for all adults, but the company’s true focus is on pregnant people and their babies. There are tests for mothers and newborns, as well as toddlers and children. There’s also a vaginal health test that can help ensure the microbiome through which the baby passes at birth is in good shape. Individual tests are expensive, but if you’re serious about safeguarding the microbiome of your children, Tiny Health offers a membership program that can save you about 20% on everything and provide you with two free consultations with a doctor each year.
BIOHM is more overtly a supplement company that specializes in gut health. It offers a microbiome test to help guide you toward the best of its products for your microbiome. The company was founded by an expert in fungi, and its test and products reflect this. It won’t detect certain other organisms like viruses, but balancing out bacterial and fungal cultures in your gut is better than addressing bacteria alone.
Ombre is the best place to go if budget is your primary concern. It utilizes a less expensive sequencing method that doesn’t go as deep into specifics as others but still provides you enough information to make some useful inferences and guide you toward probiotics and lifestyle adjustments that may improve your quality of life. The company also has a vaginal health test and a line of pre-formulated probiotics, two of which address the vaginal microbiome directly.
Floré is the only other company among our recommended alternatives to formulate custom probiotics for its customers. It’s a little more expensive than Viome at just about every turn despite using a slightly inferior sequencing technique and not having Viome’s AI support. However, Floré has a line of products sold under the Floré Clinical banner that you can access only through a healthcare provider like a primary care physician. These tests may be reimbursable by insurance, and they offer a wide variety of subjects, from heavy metal testing to an evaluation of gut inflammation. There are also subscription programs under the Floré Clinical brand that include microbiome testing and custom probiotics.
You can learn more about each of these companies and the microbiome itself by reading our complete microbiome testing guide.
If you’re primarily interested in Viome for its probiotics, you might find yourself wondering whether you really need to test your microbiome before taking some. You might also wonder how necessary it is to have those probiotics custom-made. Based on our experience, we firmly believe that microbiome testing and custom probiotics and supplements are a more reliable way to see positive results than utilizing off-the-shelf options without any knowledge of your microbiome’s makeup.
If you are determined to try some probiotics without any testing, we’d recommend a multi-strain option. Gastroenterologists often prescribe limited strains in specific cases because they can determine what a patient might benefit from the most based on symptoms and diagnoses. But without any knowledge of your microbiome (or a medical degree), you might end up with a strain that’s already abundant in your system or one that isn’t going to prosper at all, essentially throwing your money away. A multi-strain probiotic offers you a better chance of seeing a positive shift in your microbiome away from bacteria that don’t serve you well and toward more helpful strains.
Probiotic companies we often recommend include:
Sender, R., Fuchs, S., & Milo, R. (2016). Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body. PLoS Biology, 14(8).
Allaband, C., McDonald, D., Vázquez-Baeza, Y., Minich, J. J., Tripathi, A., Brenner, D. A., Loomba, R., Smarr, L., Sandborn, W. J., Schnabl, B., Dorrestein, P., Zarrinpar, A., & Knight, R. (2019). Microbiome 101: Studying, Analyzing, and Interpreting Gut Microbiome Data for Clinicians. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology: The Official Clinical Practice Journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, 17(2), 218.
Kukurba, K. R., & Montgomery, S. B. (2015). RNA Sequencing and Analysis. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols, 2015(11), 951.
Zhang, Y., Thompson, K. N., Branck, T., Yan Yan, Nguyen, L. H., Franzosa, E. A., & Huttenhower, C. (2021). Metatranscriptomics for the Human Microbiome and Microbial Community Functional Profiling. Annual Review of Biomedical Data Science, 4, 279–311.
Caesar, R., Tremaroli, V., Kovatcheva-Datchary, P., Cani, P. D., & Bäckhed, F. (2015). Crosstalk between Gut Microbiota and Dietary Lipids Aggravates WAT Inflammation through TLR Signaling. Cell Metabolism, 22(4), 658-668.
Liu, L., & Zhu, G. (2018). Gut–Brain Axis and Mood Disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9.
Colson, P., Richet, H., Desnues, C., Balique, F., Moal, V., Grob, J., Berbis, P., Lecoq, H., Harlé, R., Berland, Y., & Raoult, D. (2009). Pepper Mild Mottle Virus, a Plant Virus Associated with Specific Immune Responses, Fever, Abdominal Pains, and Pruritus in Humans. PLoS ONE, 5(4).
Chistiakov, D. A., Sobenin, I. A., Revin, V. V., Orekhov, A. N., & Bobryshev, Y. V. (2013). Mitochondrial Aging and Age-Related Dysfunction of Mitochondria. BioMed Research International, 2014.
Leishman, S. J., Do, H. L., & Ford, P. J. (2009). Cardiovascular Disease and the Role of Oral Bacteria. Journal of Oral Microbiology, 2.
Deo, P. N., & Deshmukh, R. (2019). Oral Microbiome: Unveiling the Fundamentals. Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: JOMFP, 23(1), 122-128.
Bowland, G. B., & Weyrich, L. S. (2021). The Oral-Microbiome-Brain Axis and Neuropsychiatric Disorders: An Anthropological Perspective. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13.
Yang, I., Arthur, R. A., Zhao, L., Clark, J., Hu, Y., Corwin, E. J., & Lah, J. (2021). The Oral Microbiome and Inflammation in Mild Cognitive Impairment. Experimental Gerontology, 147, 111273.
Pietiäinen, M., Liljestrand, J. M., Kopra, E., & Pussinen, P. J. (2018). Mediators Between Oral Dysbiosis and Cardiovascular Diseases. European Journal of Oral Sciences, 126 Suppl 1, 26–36.
Banavar, G., Ogundijo, O., Julian, C., Toma, R., Camacho, F., Torres, P.J., Hu, L., Kenny, L., Vasani, S., Batstone, M., Dimitrova, N., Vuyisich, M., Amar, S., & Punyadeera, C. (2022). Detecting Salivary Host-Microbiome RNA Signature for Aiding Diagnosis of Oral and Throat Cancer. medRxiv, 2022.07.30.22278239.
Idriss, H. T., & Naismith, J. H. (2000). TNF Alpha and the TNF Receptor Superfamily: Structure-Function Relationship(s). Microscopy Research and Technique, 50(3), 184–195.