Overview of the Microbiome Among Nurses study (Micro-N) as an example of prospective characterization of the microbiome within cohort studies

Nat Protoc. 2021 Jun;16(6):2724-2731. doi: 10.1038/s41596-021-00519-z. Epub 2021 Apr 21.


A lack of prospective studies has been a major barrier for assessing the role of the microbiome in human health and disease on a population-wide scale. To address this significant knowledge gap, we have launched a large-scale collection targeting fecal and oral microbiome specimens from 20,000 women within the Nurses' Health Study II cohort (the Microbiome Among Nurses study, or Micro-N). Leveraging the rich epidemiologic data that have been repeatedly collected from this cohort since 1989; the established biorepository of archived blood, urine, buccal cell, and tumor tissue specimens; the available genetic and biomarker data; the cohort's ongoing follow-up; and the BIOM-Mass microbiome research platform, Micro-N furnishes unparalleled resources for future prospective studies to interrogate the interplay between host, environmental factors, and the microbiome in human health. These prospectively collected materials will provide much-needed evidence to infer causality in microbiome-associated outcomes, paving the way toward development of microbiota-targeted modulators, preventives, diagnostics and therapeutics. Here, we describe a generalizable, scalable and cost-effective platform used for stool and oral microbiome specimen and metadata collection in the Micro-N study as an example of how prospective studies of the microbiome may be carried out.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses
  • Prospective Studies
  • Specimen Handling / instrumentation
  • Specimen Handling / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires