In ecology, population density is a key feature of community analysis. Yet in studies of the gut microbiome, bacterial density is rarely reported. Studies of hospitalized patients commonly use rectal swabs for microbiome analysis, yet variation in their bacterial density—and the clinical and methodologic significance of this variation—remains undetermined. We used an ultra-sensitive quantification approach—droplet digital PCR (ddPCR)—to quantify bacterial density in rectal swabs from 118 hospitalized patients. We compared bacterial density with bacterial community composition (via 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing) and clinical data to determine if variation in bacterial density has methodological, clinical, and prognostic significance.
January 24, 2022