The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

The New Science of Metagenomics: Revealing the Secrets of Our Microbial Planet (2007)

Although we can't usually see them, microbes are essential for every part of life on Earth. The emerging field of metagenomics offers a new way of exploring the microbial world that will transform modern microbiology and lead to practical applications in medicine, agriculture, alternative energy, environmental remediation, and many other areas. Metagenomics allows researchers to look at the genomes of all of the microbes in an environment at once, providing a "meta" view of the whole microbial community and the complex interactions within it rather than studying—one at a time—the few microbes that can be grown in the laboratory. At the request of the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy, the National Research Council organized a committee to address the current state of metagenomics and identify obstacles current researchers are facing in order to determine how to best support the field and encourage its success. The New Science of Metagenomics recommends the establishment of a "Global Metagenomics Initiative" comprising a small number of large-scale metagenomics projects as well as many smaller-scale projects to advance the technology and develop the standard practices needed to advance the field. The report also addresses database needs, methodological challenges, and the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in supporting this new field.

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What do you know about infectious disease?

The 1918 influenza pandemic (the so-called “Spanish” flu) is estimated to have killed how many people worldwide?

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The 1918 influenza pandemic is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide. Many of those deaths were due to the effects of pneumococcal pneumonia, a secondary complication of flu for which no antibiotics existed in 1918.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The 1918 influenza pandemic is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide. Many of those deaths were due to the effects of pneumococcal pneumonia, a secondary complication of flu for which no antibiotics existed in 1918.

  • Correct!

    The 1918 influenza pandemic is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide. Many of those deaths were due to the effects of pneumococcal pneumonia, a secondary complication of flu for which no antibiotics existed in 1918.