Food Science and Technology Department


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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016 May ; 25(5): 869. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-16-0063.


We congratulate Sinha et al. on their recent report (1) comparing fecal sample collection methods for epidemiologic studies of the gut microbiome. These data contribute to the increasing body of literature describing robust methodological frameworks for specimen collection and processing (2, 3). However, their claim that fixation of stool using RNAlater® results in “considerable changes to the microbiome diversity” contrasts with previous findings (2, 3), including those from their earlier reports (4, 5). We have previously demonstrated that self-collected stool stabilized with RNAlater® or other fixatives yields high fidelity and reproducibility in compositional profiling of DNA and RNA from shotgun sequence data, compared to immediately-frozen specimens (3). Additionally, fixation offers several distinct advantages crucial for large-scale population-based studies: a straightforward self-collection procedure; sample stabilization without deep-freezing during shipping, receiving, and processing; and versatility for multiple molecular analyses. The authors’ finding that specimens preserved in RNAlater® had poor correlation with immediately frozen specimens (1) could be explained, for example, by improper fixation resulting from an excess of specimen relative to preservative volume (1–2 g:2.5 ml, compared to the manufacturer-recommended ratio of 1 g:5–10 ml; Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Waltham, MA).

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