The colorectal cancer-associated faecal microbiome of developing countries resembles that of developed countries

Genome Med. 2021 Feb 16;13(1):27. doi: 10.1186/s13073-021-00844-8.


Background: The incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) is increasing in developing countries, yet limited research on the CRC- associated microbiota has been conducted in these areas, in part due to scarce resources, facilities, and the difficulty of fresh or frozen stool storage/transport. Here, we aimed (1) to establish a broad representation of diverse developing countries (Argentina, Chile, India, and Vietnam); (2) to validate a 'resource-light' sample-collection protocol translatable in these settings using guaiac faecal occult blood test (gFOBT) cards stored and, importantly, shipped internationally at room temperature; (3) to perform initial profiling of the collective CRC-associated microbiome of these developing countries; and (4) to compare this quantitatively with established CRC biomarkers from developed countries.

Methods: We assessed the effect of international storage and transport at room temperature by replicating gFOBT from five UK volunteers, storing two in the UK, and sending replicates to institutes in the four countries. Next, to determine the effect of prolonged UK storage, DNA extraction replicates for a subset of samples were performed up to 252 days apart. To profile the CRC-associated microbiome of developing countries, gFOBT were collected from 41 treatment-naïve CRC patients and 40 non-CRC controls from across the four institutes, and V4 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed. Finally, we constructed a random forest (RF) model that was trained and tested against existing datasets from developed countries.

Results: The microbiome was stably assayed when samples were stored/transported at room temperature and after prolonged UK storage. Large-scale microbiome structure was separated by country and continent, with a smaller effect from CRC. Importantly, the RF model performed similarly to models trained using external datasets and identified similar taxa of importance (Parvimonas, Peptostreptococcus, Fusobacterium, Alistipes, and Escherichia).

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that gFOBT, stored and transported at room temperature, represents a suitable method of faecal sample collection for amplicon-based microbiome biomarkers in developing countries and suggests a CRC-faecal microbiome association that is consistent between developed and developing countries.

Keywords: Argentina; Chile; India; Microbiota; Vietnam; gFOBT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Developed Countries*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Feces / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Geography
  • Guaiac
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood
  • Transportation
  • United Kingdom


  • Guaiac