What Metagenomics is and Its Applications in Healthcare and Biotechnology

Metagenomics is simply the study of microbes in the natural living environment that involves complex microbial communities where they exist.

The study helps examine an organism’s genomic composition, including all its microbes. Rather than considering the concept of an organism and microbes as separate entities, regard them as a community and interdependent.

Why Metagenomics is Important

Microbes run the entire world – it is as simple as that. While you can’t see microbes, they are important for every aspect of human life.

Ideally, microbes touch every biosphere process to change the world. The chemical cycle, which converts key aspects of human life, including sulfur, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon, into accessible forms, largely depends on microbes.

Every animal and plant is closely associated with microbes, making necessary vitamins, metals, and nutrients available to hosts.

Through fermentation and other natural processes, microbial communities add or create value to foods, which are staples to the human diet.

Also, we rely on microbes to control toxins around the environment, and that includes those naturally produced and those that are byproducts of human activities, like chemical and oil spills.

Metagenomics Basic Steps

The study is based on the cloning of genes. Basically, the metagenomics procedure is made up of three major steps. These include extraction & enrichment of metagenomic DNA, construction of metagenome library, and screening & analyzing metagenomic library.

In the first step, genes in the microbial samples get extracted and enriched. In the second step, genes get cloned into a vector and then transformed into the host bacteria so as to create a metagenomic library. Lastly, the library is screened before it gets analyzed.

The bottom line is that extracting metagenomic DNA and constructing as well as screening metagenomic libraries is crucial.

How Scientists Use Metagenomic Strategies

Microbiologists and scientists use several metagenomic strategies to study the diversity of microbial communities. Some of the most common strategies they use include the following:

  • Phenotypic-based strategies: Screening metagenomic libraries via this approach is done to detect expression of a certain phenotype conferred on a host that DNA inserted.
  • Sequencing-based strategies: This strategy helps to identify microorganisms. It also determines the evolutionary relationships between various microorganisms.

Although both strategies have pros and cons, they are increasingly becoming crucial in metagenomic studies where researchers want to understand microbial genes’ functions in the natural environment.

Applications in Healthcare and Biotechnology

The study has been used to identify unknown pathogens in an outbreak of an illness. For instance, shotgun metagenomics is used to detect and discover pathogens in a clinical sample. In addition, the study is used to identify gut microbial species as well as their abundance.

Also, there is a political drive globally to promote white biotechnology as one of the key features of today’s industrialized society. According to researchers, metagenomics is capable of impacting industrial production of the following:

  • Enzymes
  • Antibiotics
  • Bioactive compounds

Metagenomic is a cutting-edge and recent technology that allows researchers to study genomes present in clinical samples. It identifies the composition of microbes in fermented drinks or microbial metabolic functions present in the gut when a patient has an illness, making the study ideal in biotechnology and healthcare.

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