Effect of short-term room temperature storage on the microbial community in infant fecal samples

Sci Rep. 2016 May 26:6:26648. doi: 10.1038/srep26648.


Sample storage conditions are important for unbiased analysis of microbial communities in metagenomic studies. Specifically, for infant gut microbiota studies, stool specimens are often exposed to room temperature (RT) conditions prior to analysis. This could lead to variations in structural and quantitative assessment of bacterial communities. To estimate such effects of RT storage, we collected feces from 29 healthy infants (0-3 months) and partitioned each sample into 5 portions to be stored for different lengths of time at RT before freezing at -80 °C. Alpha diversity did not differ between samples with storage time from 0 to 2 hours. The UniFrac distances and microbial composition analysis showed significant differences by testing among individuals, but not by testing between different time points at RT. Changes in the relative abundance of some specific (less common, minor) taxa were still found during storage at room temperature. Our results support previous studies in children and adults, and provided useful information for accurate characterization of infant gut microbiomes. In particular, our study furnished a solid foundation and justification for using fecal samples exposed to RT for less than 2 hours for comparative analyses between various medical conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Specimen Handling / methods*
  • Temperature*