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Reproducibility in microbiomics

The field of microbiomics has expanded rapidly over the past decade, making its way into studies of human health, disease, the environment, agriculture, and many others. Worldwide enthusiasm for this field is illustrated by the establishment and coordination of several global-scale microbiome studies. Such projects have led to a deeper understanding of the interaction between humans and the multitude of microorganisms that reside within them, providing fascinating insights, such as the relationship between the gut microbiome and mental health.

Although microbiome profiling data has been generated from thousands of samples, results have been difficult to reproduce and datasets from different studies are not comparable. This is due to a lack of defined standards and a single common point of reference. Fortunately, over the past several years, this reproducibility crisis has gained the attention of key opinion leaders and the adoption of defined microbial standards is growing, leading to an increased ability to standardize protocols, techniques, and workflows. However, as our understanding of the conditions required for true reproducibility develops, the need for a common point of reference for the human gut microbiome has become apparent.

This In Focus will explore reproducibility in microbiomics covering:

  • The basic principles of reproducibility that should underly any microbiomics study
  • The common errors that researchers make regarding reproducibility in microbiomics
  • Simple protocols and materials to use to achieve reproducibility in microbiomic studies