A term we heard a bunch at the Emory Microbiome Symposium in November was â€œmetagenomicsâ€. Time for an explainer, with some help from Emory geneticist Tim Read.
Nature Reviews Microbiology defines metagenomics as â€œgenomic analysis of microbial DNA that is extracted directly from communities in environmental samples.â€
This technology â€” genomics on a huge scale â€” enables a survey of the different microorganisms present in a specific environment, such as water or soil, to be carried out. Metagenomics is also emerging as a tool for clinical diagnosis of infectious diseases.
Read notes that the term specifically refers to â€œshotgunâ€ sequencing of environmental DNA.
â€œThe shotgun approach is to randomly sample small pieces of the DNA in the tube, no matter which organism they came from,â€ he says. â€œThe output is a mÃ©lange of different genes from bacteria, viruses, fungi, plants and humans.Â The data is fascinating but the analysis is daunting.â€ Read more