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About the Biobank

Human Microbiota Biobank (HUMB) is located in the Department of Microbiology, Institute of Biomedicine and Transitional Medicine. The biobank contains more than 20,000 microbial strains of human origin and more than 3,000 microbiota samples. The collection has joined two international networks (WDCM, ECCO).

Main goal of the collection is to support and promote research and development in the field of microbiota. An important area of work is the screening of the properties of beneficial bacteria of human body, leading to the development of novel probiotics. Another important area of work involves the causative agents of opportunistic infections, their spectrum of drug susceptibility and virulence factors.

The biobank was started in 1994, when the first microbiota samples and lactobacilli strains were obtained in frame of the Estonian-Swedish allergy study. In the following years, the biobank has been supplemented with thousands of microbiota samples and microbial strains through numerous research projects. Particularly valuable are the beneficial bacteria derived from the human microbiota - lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, but the collection also contains a large number of opportunistic bacteria. Hundreds of specimens are added to collection each year, originating from intestinal tract, oral cavity, respiratory tract, genital tract and skin. The collection also preserves several patented probiotic lactobacilli, as well as standard cultures purchased from other collections for quality control and comparative testing.

The information system of the collection was originally based on the MySQL platform, which was later integrated with the MariaDB platform. The PHPRunner software package (XLineSoft) has been used to create the database user interface, and the dbForge Studio for MySQL (Devart) software package has been used to build the database architecture, create and test procedures and functions. A modern cPanel environment is used to organize database security, platform and content updates, and archiving. Data is managed via a web browser. The basic data of the catalog is visible to the average user, the entire structure of the catalog is visible and editable by registered users. Work on the development of the database and website will continue in cooperation with the Institute of Physics of the University of Tartu. The collection is visited electronically almost 300,000 times a year.

Research and development

The biobank is constantly engaged in research - determining the properties of microbial strains, isolating and analyzing DNA, analyzing microbial communities, updating and organizing the database. An important part of the collection's work is the screening of the properties of beneficial bacteria (including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) from the gastrointestinal tract, genital tract and oral cavity, one of the results of which is the development of novel probiotics. There has been a huge growth in the world in the development of functional foods and probiotic products for health promotion and prophylaxis of certain diseases. The research and development needed for this requires laboratory and clinical trials regulated by EU rules, which must confirm the efficacy and safety of the selected bacterial strains. The probiotic lactobacilli found and patented in these experiments are stored in HUMB - Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 (DSM 14241), Lactobacillus plantarum TENSIA (DSM 21380) and Lactobacillus plantarum INDUCIA (DSM 21379). ME-3 is patented by the University of Tartu and is used in several products developed in cooperation with companies: 'Hellus' brand of dairy products (Tere AS), cheese 'Andre Salute' (Andre Juustufarm OÜ), probiotic yoghurt ice cream (Balbiino AS), probiotic Madagascar chocolate (Chocolala OÜ), it is also marketed as a Reg'Activ food supplement (OÜ NoraVita). TENSIA and INDUCIA are patented by BioCC and are used in probiotic heart cheese and various supplements.

Another important field of the collection's work is to elucidate the sources of the causative agents of opportunistic infections, their drug susceptibility and virulence factors. This will allow to map their spread and to update the treatment guidelines. These works are based on a sub-collection of opportunistic bacteria associated with clinical infections, that have been collected in collaboration with various clinics and foreign partners. Using and / or supplementing the HUMB collection, national treatment guidelines have been developed, numerous doctoral and master's theses have been defended, and more than 400 scientific publications have been completed.

Biobank is open for scientific cooperation.


University of Tartu 

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Version 09.11.2021