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Luxembourg National Research Fund

Luxembourg researchers discover significant contamination of widely used lab kit

A team led by FNR ATTRACT Fellow Prof Dr Paul Wilmes has discovered the contamination of a widely used RNA extraction kit, which could have implications for a significant number of published studies. The findings, along with how the team worked with the manufacturer to find a solution, have been published in the journal BMC Biology.

After finding unusual results in sequencing data generated for a project funded by the FNR’s PoC (now JUMP) programme, the Eco Systems Biology Group at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biology (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg, led by Prof Dr Paul Wilmes, have discovered that a RNA extraction kit produced by the company Qiagen is in fact contaminated with non-human RNA.

Paul Wilmes

The discovery was made after the team found unusual RNA in their sequence data. In an effort to make sure the unusual results could be trusted, the team decided to test the kit for contaminants. After much work, the team discovered that the columns used for the isolation of RNA, specifically the silica in the columns, was contaminated.

This not only meant that the data sequences during the PoC project instantly became unusable, but also raises questions about the validity of countless published studies where the contaminated kit was used.

Wilmes contacted the manufacturer to make them aware and in a twist actually collaborated with the company to find a solution, with an improved version of the kit now available, along with recommendations from Wilmes’ team on how to safely perform such analyses in the future.

More information

Read more about this discovery and the resulting publication in our FNR Highlight, featuring interviews with Paul Wilmes and Anna Heinz-Burschart, first author on the publication


The publication ‘Small RNA profiling of low biomass samples: identification and removal of contaminants’ is available in the journal BMC Biology (open access):