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The Environmental Microbiology Minimum Information (EMMI) Guidelines: qPCR and dPCR Quality and Reporting for Environmental Microbiology

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-07-21, 15:48 authored by Mark A. Borchardt, Alexandria B. Boehm, Marc Salit, Susan K. Spencer, Krista R. Wigginton, Rachel T. Noble
Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and digital PCR (dPCR) methods have revolutionized environmental microbiology, yielding quantitative organism-specific data of nucleic acid targets in the environment. Such data are essential for characterizing interactions and processes of microbial communities, assessing microbial contaminants in the environment (water, air, fomites), and developing interventions (water treatment, surface disinfection, air purification) to curb infectious disease transmission. However, our review of recent qPCR and dPCR literature in our field of health-related environmental microbiology showed that many researchers are not reporting necessary and sufficient controls and methods, which would serve to strengthen their study results and conclusions. Here, we describe the application, utility, and interpretation of the suite of controls needed to make high quality qPCR and dPCR measurements of microorganisms in the environment. Our presentation is organized by the discrete steps and operations typical of this measurement process. We propose systematic terminology to minimize ambiguity and aid comparisons among studies. Example schemes for batching and combining controls for efficient work flow are demonstrated. We describe critical reporting elements for enhancing data credibility, and we provide an element checklist in the Supporting Information. Additionally, we present several key principles in metrology as context for laboratories to devise their own quality assurance and quality control reporting framework. Following the EMMI guidelines will improve comparability and reproducibility among qPCR and dPCR studies in environmental microbiology, better inform engineering and public health actions for preventing disease transmission through environmental pathways, and for the most pressing issues in the discipline, focus the weight of evidence in the direction toward solutions.