Comparison of rectal swab, glove tip, and participant-collected stool techniques for gut microbiome sampling

Meghan I. Short, Robert Hudson, Benjamin D. Besasie, Kelly R. Reveles, Dimpy P. Shah, Susannah Nicholson, Teresa L. Johnson-Pais, Korri Weldon, Zhao Lai, Robin J. Leach, Bernard Fongang, Michael A. Liss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Studies of the gut microbiome are becoming increasingly important. Such studies require stool collections that can be processed or frozen in a timely manner so as not to alter the microbial content. Due to the logistical difficulties of home-based stool collection, there has been a challenge in selecting the appropriate sample collection technique and comparing results from different microbiome studies. Thus, we compared stool collection and two alternative clinic-based fecal microbiome collection techniques, including a newer glove-based collection method. Results: We prospectively enrolled 22 adult men from our prostate cancer screening cohort SABOR (San Antonio Biomarkers of Risk for prostate cancer) in San Antonio, TX, from 8/2018 to 4/2019. A rectal swab and glove tip sample were collected from each participant during a one-time visit to our clinics. A single stool sample was collected at the participant’s home. DNA was isolated from the fecal material and 16 s rRNA sequencing of the V1-V2 and V3-V4 regions was performed. We found the gut microbiome to be similar in richness and evenness, noting no differences in alpha diversity among the collection methods. The stool collection method, which remains the gold-standard method for the gut microbiome, proved to have different community composition compared to swab and glove tip techniques (p< 0.001) as measured by Bray-Curtis and unifrac distances. There were no significant differences in between the swab and glove tip samples with regard to beta diversity (p> 0.05). Despite differences between home-based stool and office-based fecal collection methods, we noted that the distance metrics for the three methods cluster by participant indicating within-person similarities. Additionally, no taxa differed among the methods in a Linear Discriminant Analysis Effect Size (LEfSe) analysis comparing all-against-all sampling methods. Conclusion: The glove tip method provides similar gut microbiome results as rectal swab and stool microbiome collection techniques. The addition of a new office-based collection technique could help easy and practical implementation of gut microbiome research studies and clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • 16 s rRNA gene sequencing
  • Digital rectal examination
  • Gut microbiome
  • Rectal swabs
  • Stool collection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Microbiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Comparison of rectal swab, glove tip, and participant-collected stool techniques for gut microbiome sampling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this