New technique could help analysis of human microbiome

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Flinders University says its researchers have developed a new technique to read complex microbial populations – a technique that could also be applied to improve analysis of the human microbiome.

Researchers from the university's Centre for Marine Bio-products Development at Flinders University examined sea sponges – believed to be the oldest existing animals. 

The researchers developed a multi-primer approach to uncover taxonomic 'blind spots. This led to dramatically improved results.

For example, according to the university, compared to a maximum of 41 microbial phyla reported by the global sponge microbiome survey of 81 sponge species, the Flinders University team revealed 57 phyla from only four local sponge species.

“This breakthrough marks a significant improvement in our ability to expand our knowledge of microbiomes,” said lead author Professor Wei Zhang.

According to Dr Qi Yang, who commenced this research during their PhD candidature, “We were able to obtain sequence coverage of all the variable regions of the 16S rRNA ‘signature gene’ to analyse the amplicon-based microbiomes.

“From this initial examination of marine sponges, we are now confident that it can be applied across all microbiomes – including human microbiome studies.

“This will have many possible implications. For example, to better understand the human gut, we will now be able to identify many more types of bacteria, to obtain a more complete picture of the human microbiome.”