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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Similarity in milk microbiota in replicates

Dahlberg, Josef; Pelve, Erik; Dicksved, Johan


Receiving the same results from repeated analysis of the same sample is a basic principle in science. The inability to reproduce previously published results has led to discussions of a reproducibility crisis within science. For studies of microbial communities, the problem of reproducibility is more pronounced and has, in some fields, led to a discussion on the very existence of a constantly present microbiota. In this study, DNA from 44 bovine milk samples were extracted twice and the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene was sequenced in two separate runs. The FASTQ files from the two data sets were run through the same bioinformatics pipeline using the same settings and results from the two data sets were compared. Milk samples collected maximally 2 h apart were used as replicates and permitted comparisons to be made within the same run. Results show a significant difference in species richness between the two sequencing runs although Shannon and Simpson's diversity was the same. Multivariate analyses of all samples demonstrate that the sequencing run was a driver for variation. Direct comparison of similarity between samples and sequencing run showed an average similarity of 42%-45% depending on whether binary or abundance-based similarity indices were used. Within-run comparisons of milk samples collected maximally 2 h apart showed an average similarity of 39%-47% depending on the similarity index used and that similarity differed significantly between runs. We conclude that repeated DNA extraction and sequencing significantly can affect the results of a low microbial biomass microbiota study.


microbiota; milk; mock community; repeatability; reproducibility

Published in

Microbiology Open
2023, Volume: 12, number: 5, article number: e1383
Publisher: WILEY