New publication in BMC Genomics

Today I want to celebrate with all the Hall team, the wider research community, and public about my first first-authorship manuscript! This manuscript has taught me many things, and seeing it now finally published made me realise how much I, and all the co-authors as a team have worked together ‘gilding the lily’ to make this happen, and for this I want to offer my sincere THANKS to EVERYONE involved in this work.

In this publication, we have optimised a protocol for profiling the microbes present in faecal samples from preterm infants using DNA sequencing via an approach called 16S rRNA gene meta-taxonomic profiling. This sequencing technique has the advantage of being low cost and very informative, allowing users to get an idea of which groups of bacteria are present in the faeces. What we showed was that sample preparation, DNA sequencing, and the computation analysis you do to these samples is critical for making sure you get the correct microbial profile. Perhaps now you might be wondering why it is interesting to know which bacteria are present in your faeces? Believe it or not, this is very useful information, not only for scientists, who are crazy about discovering new things, but for clinicians as well. Our gut is home to trillions and trillions of bacteria, which are critical for health. They help us digest the food we eat, or protect us from infections caused by bad bacteria or viruses. By studying the groups of bacteria present in faecal samples we can tell more about overall health status, and if someone might be suffering from bacterial diseases.

This study uses faecal samples from very low birth weight preterm infants (all of them weighed less than 1000 g, as little as a packet of flour). This cohort of preterm infants are often the most vulnerable as they are born extremely early (sometimes after only 6 months of pregnancy), and they normally reside for a long time in the hospital. In recent years oral supplementation with ‘friendly’ or ‘probiotic’ bacteria is beginning to be used in preterm infants to prevent development of serious diseases such as necrotising enterocolitis. Our lab collaborates with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), and the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge from where we obtained the faecal samples from this study, and without this collaborative work with our NHS colleagues this manuscript would not have been published.

This work has laid the foundation for other scientists and clinicians to obtain accurate data in clinical trials where oral supplementation with ´friendly´ bacteria is given to preterm infants.
From here, I would also like to thank the funding bodies Wellcome Trust, and BBSRC for their support in this research. It´s time to celebrate now, ´Who is joining for drinks at the Rec?´