U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Agricultural Research Magazine 60(4): April 2012 pp. 18-19; ISSN 0002-161X


Less than 10 years ago, the world marveled at the completion of the human genome project, which involved traditional technology to identify all the genes in a single organism—the human. Today, a more powerful technology is being used to detect thousands of organisms in an entire community.

Unlike traditional gene sequencing, the new molecular technique—metagenomics— eliminates the need to cultivate and isolate individual microbial species. Scientists can apply genomic analysis to mixed communities of microbes instead of to just one organism.

For example, researchers examining viral enteric (intestinal) diseases in poultry can take intestinal samples from different poultry flocks. The material can be processed to sequence all the viral nucleic acid—RNAand DNA—in the sample and then analyzed as a single genome.