A comparison of sampling methods for examining the laryngeal microbiome
Shifts in healthy human microbial communities have now been linked to disease in numerous body sites. Noninvasive swabbing remains the sampling technique of choice in most locations; however, it is not well known if this method samples the entire community, or only those members that are easily removed from the surface. We sought to compare the communities found via swabbing and biopsied tissue in true vocal folds, a location that is difficult to sample without causing potential damage and impairment to tissue function. A secondary aim of this study was to determine if swab sampling of the false vocal folds could be used as proxy for true vocal folds. True and false vocal fold mucosal samples (swabbed and biopsied) were collected from six pigs and used for 454 pyrosequencing of the V3–V5 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Most of the alpha and beta measures of diversity were found to be significantly similar between swabbed and biopsied tissue samples. Similarly, the communities found in true and false vocal folds did not differ considerably. These results suggest that samples taken via swabs are sufficient to assess the community, and that samples taken from the false vocal folds may be used as proxies for the true vocal folds. Assessment of these techniques opens an avenue to less traumatic means to explore the role microbes play in the development of diseases of the vocal folds, and perhaps the rest of the respiratory tract.