The microbial cells colonizing the human body form an ecosystem that is integral to the regulation and maintenance of human health. Elucidation of specific associations between the human microbiome and health outcomes is facilitating the development of microbiome-targeted recommendations and treatments (e.g., fecal microbiota transplant; pre-, pro-, and post-biotics) to help prevent and treat disease. However, the potential of such recommendations and treatments to improve human health has yet to be fully realized. Technological advances have led to the development and proliferation of a wide range of tools and methods to collect, store, sequence, and analyze microbiome samples. However, differences in methodology at each step in these analytic processes can lead to variability in results due to the unique biases and limitations of each component. This technical variability hampers the detection and validation of associations with small to medium effect sizes. Therefore, the American Society of Nutrition (ASN) Nutritional Microbiology Group Engaging Members (GEM), sponsored by the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS), hosted a satellite session on methods in nutrition and gut microbiome research to review currently available methods for microbiome research, best practices, as well as tools and standards to aid in comparability of methods and results. This manuscript summarizes the topics and research discussed at the session. Consideration of the guidelines and principles reviewed in this session will increase the accuracy, precision, and comparability of microbiome research and ultimately the understanding of the associations between the human microbiome and health.
This work was supported by IAFNS Gut Microbiome Committee.