Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Genome sequencers wielded in battle against deadly bugs

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It seems a week can’t go by without the genome of yet another deadly microbe being published. The GenBank sequence database, the central repository of all publicly available DNA sequences, now lists more than 3,000 complete microbial genomes, and last week, in the Journal of Bacteriology alone, researchers reported whole genome sequences for the microbial pesticide Pantoea vagans and a new strain of Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium responsible for most stomach ulcers. (The same journal also simultaneously published a draft genome of Leuconostoc argentinum, the most common bacterium present during the manufacturing process of kimchi, and the methane-eating microbe Methylosinus trichosporium.)

But the field of pathogen genomics goes far beyond throwing next-generation sequencing equipment at every microbe imaginable. Last month, I attended the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory–Wellcome Trust conference on Infectious Disease Genomics and Global Health in Hinxton, UK, where researchers reported new techniques for tracking hospital-acquired infections, for combating malaria based on hotspots of disease transmission and for tracking the evolution of antibiotic resistance.

You can read my reports in the October issue of Nature Medicine:

Sequencing of superbugs seen as key to combating their spread

Genomics uncovers microbe resistance

Targeting hotspots of transmission promises to reduce malaria

Image: NIH

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