In addition to providing nutritional and bioactive factors necessary for infant development, human breast milk contains bacteria that contribute to the establishment of commensal microbiota in the infant. However, the composition of this bacterial community differs considerably between studies. We hypothesised that bacterial DNA extraction methodology from breast milk samples are a substantial contributor to these inter-study differences. We tested this hypothesis by applying five widely employed methodologies to a mock breast milk sample and four individual human breast milk samples. Significant differences in DNA yield and purity were observed between methods (P < 0.05). Microbiota composition, assessed by 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, also differed significantly with extraction methodology (P < 0.05), including in the contribution of contaminant signal. Concerningly, many of the bacterial taxa identified here as contaminants have been reported as components of the breast milk microbiome in other studies. These findings highlight the importance of using stringent, well-validated, DNA extraction methodologies for analysis of the breast milk microbiome, and exercising caution interpreting microbiota data from low-biomass contexts.
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- human breast milk
- DNA extraction