New report looks at genome boom in microbiology

Large-scale DNA sequencing of microbes will lead to far reaching advances in medicine, agriculture, and ecology, a new report from the American Academy of Microbiology says. It is now possible to unravel the genetic codes of microbes that inhabit every environment on Earth, discover thousands of novel biological functions, and uncover clues to the history of evolution. Genomic science can revolutionize our scientific understanding of the world we live in, the microbial world that lives within us, and the applications of biotechnology. But it will require important decisions and strategic actions. The report, "Microbial Genomes: Blueprints for Life," discusses the potential and the problems that come with rapid advances and new technology.

As of July 2000, scientists have published genome sequences of 29 microorganisms, with more than 100 others in progress. Methods for sequencing are getting faster and more efficient, but the information generated may not be put to the best possible use at the current time. Decisions about quality control, best use of technology, which organisms should be sequenced next, and how and when to get data to those who need it have not been asked or answered in a well-coordinated way.

"Microbial Genomes: Blueprints for Life," presents the conclusions of a panel of 38 scientists that spent several days deliberating the issues. Participants took a broad view of problems and offered solutions. Issues of the selection and coordination of projects, data management and analysis, training and education, funding, and ethics are discussed. The report makes specific recommendations for the future.


Contact: Andrea Lohse
American Society for Microbiology

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