The human microbiome can play key roles in disease, and diagnostic testing will soon have the ability to examine these roles in the context of clinical applications. Currently, most diagnostic testing in pathology applications focuses on a small number of disease-causing microbes and dismisses the whole microbial community that causes or is modulated by disease. Microbiome modifications have already provided clinically relevant insights in gut and oral diseases, such as irritable bowel disease, but there are currently limitations when clinically examining microbiomes outside of these body sites. This is critical, as the majority of microbial samples used in pathology originate from body sites that contain low concentrations of microbial DNA, including skin, tissue, blood, and urine. These samples, also known as low microbial biomass samples, are difficult to examine without careful consideration and precautions to mitigate contamination and biases. Here, we present the limitations when analysing low microbial biomass samples using current protocols and techniques and highlight the advantages that microbiome testing can offer diagnostics in the future, if the proper precautions are implemented. Specifically, we discuss the sources of contamination and biases that may result in false assessments for these sample types. Finally, we provide recommendations to mitigate contamination and biases from low microbial biomass samples during diagnostic testing, which will be especially important to effectively diagnose and treat patients using microbiome analyses.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine