Current ocular microbiome investigations limit reproducibility and reliability: Critical review and opportunities
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Enthusiasm for research describing microbial communities using next-generation sequencing (NGS) has outpaced efforts to standardize methodology. Without consistency in the way research is carried out in this field, the comparison of data between studies is near impossible and the utility of results remains limited. This holds true for bacterial microbiome research of the ocular surface, and other sites, in both humans and animals. In addition, the ocular surface remains under-explored when compared to other mucosal sites. Low bacterial biomass samples from the ocular surface lead to further technical challenges. Taken together, two major problems were identified: (1) Normalization of the workflow in studies utilizing NGS to investigate the ocular surface bacteriome is necessary in order to propel the field forward and improve research impact through cross-study comparisons. (2) Current microbiome profiling technology was developed for high bacterial biomass samples (such as feces or soil), posing a challenge for analyses of samples with low bacterial load such as the ocular surface. This article reviews the challenges and limitations currently facing ocular microbiome research and provides recommendations for minimum reporting standards for veterinary ophthalmologists and clinician scientists to limit inter-study variation, improve reproducibility, and ultimately render results from these studies more impactful. The move toward normalization of methodology will expedite and maximize the potential for microbiome research to translate into meaningful discovery and tangible clinical applications.
author list (cited authors)
Scott, E. M., Lewin, A. C., & Leis, M. L.