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Microb Ecol. 2011 Jan;61(1):123-33. doi: 10.1007/s00248-010-9738-y. Epub 2010 Aug 24.

Assessing gut microbial diversity from feces and rectal mucosa.

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Centro Superior de Investigación en Salud Pública (CSISP), Avenida de Cataluña 21, 46020, Valencia, Spain.


Gut microbiota is the most complex bacterial community in the human body and its study may give important clues to the etiology of different intestinal diseases. Most studies carried out so far have used fecal samples, assuming that these samples have a similar distribution to the communities present throughout the colon. The present study was designed to test this assumption by comparing samples from the rectal mucosa and feces of nine healthy volunteers by sequencing libraries of 16S rRNA genes. At the family taxonomic level, where rarefaction curves indicate that the observed number of taxa is close to the expected one, we observe under different statistical analyses that fecal and mucosal samples cluster separately. The same is found at the level of species considering phylogenetic information. Consequently, it cannot be stated that both samples from a given individual are of similar composition. We believe that the evidence in support of this statement is strong and that it would not change by increasing the number of individuals and/or performing massive sequencing. We do not expect clinicians to stop using feces for research, but we think it is important to caution them on their potential lack of representativeness with respect to the bacterial biofilm on the rectal mucosa.

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