Food Science and Technology Department


Department of Food Science and Technology: Faculty Publications

Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version



Chapter 8 in J. Izard and M. C. Rivera, editors, Metagenomics for Microbiology, Academic Press, 2015, pages 113–134

doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-410472-3.00008-7


Copyright © 2015, Elsevier. Used by permission


The study of bacteria, or bacteriology, has gone through transformative waves since its inception in the 1600s. It all started by the visualization of bacteria using light microscopy by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, when he first described “animalcules.” Direct cellular observation then evolved into utilizing different wavelengths on novel platforms such as electron, fluorescence, and even near-infrared microscopy. Understanding the link between microbes and disease (pathogenicity) began with the ability to isolate and cultivate organisms through aseptic methodologies starting in the 1700s. These techniques became more prevalent in the following centuries with the work of famous scientists such as Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, and many others since then. The relationship between bacteria and the host’s immune system was first inferred in the 1800s, and to date is continuing to unveil its mysteries. During the last century, researchers initiated the era of molecular genetics. The discovery of the first-generation sequencing technology, the Sanger method, and, later, the polymerase chain reaction technology propelled the molecular genetics field by exponentially expanding the knowledge of relationship between gene structure and function. The rise of commercially available next-generation sequencing methodologies, in the beginning of this century, is drastically allowing larger amount of information to be acquired, in a manner open to the democratization of the approach.