Cross-Sample Sequencing Contamination Galore

Scientists conducting a large-scale, comparative transcriptomics project have inadvertently highlighted widespread contamination in sequencing data.

The Scientist – Ruth Williams – Subcontracted nucleic acid sequencing can be a source of extensive cross-sample contamination, warn the authors of a report published in BMC Biology last week (March 29). Approximately 80 percent of RNA samples collected from 180 different species as part of an evolutionary study became tainted with RNA sequences from other species, according to the authors. And most of this contamination occurred when the samples were sent to companies for sequencing.

“The important take-home message is that all molecular biologists . . . need to consider contamination of research materials as a risk. None of us are immune to contamination, no matter how experienced we are or how good our technique. We need to be aware that our precious research materials may become contaminated, and think about ways to manage that risk,” Amanda Capes-Davis of CellBank Australia who was not involved with the research wrote in an email to The Scientist.

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