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The premature infant gut microbiome plays an important part in infant health and development, and recognition of the implications of microbial dysbiosis in premature infants has prompted significant research into these issues. The approaches to designing investigations into microbial populations are many and varied, each with its own benefits and limitations. The technique used can influence results, contributing to heterogeneity across studies. This review aimed to describe the most common techniques used in researching the preterm infant microbiome, detailing their various limitations. The objective was to provide those entering the field with a broad understanding of available methodologies, so that the likely effects of their use can be factored into literature interpretation and future study design. We found that although many techniques are used for characterising the premature infant microbiome, 16S rRNA short amplicon sequencing is the most common. 16S rRNA short amplicon sequencing has several benefits, including high accuracy, discoverability and high throughput capacity. However, this technique has limitations. Each stage of the protocol offers opportunities for the injection of bias. Bias can contribute to variability between studies using 16S rRNA high throughout sequencing. Thus, we recommend that the interpretation of previous results and future study design be given careful consideration.
Westaway, J. A. F., Huerlimann, R., Miller, C. M., Kandasamy, Y., Norton, R., & Rudd, D. (2021). Methods for exploring the faecal microbiome of premature infants: a review. Maternal Health, Neonatology and Perinatology, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40748-021-00131-9