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Tools & Techniques Diagnostics & prognostics, Omics

Viruses Face the Ultimate Test

Ever since Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Franklin's discovery of the double helix, we have longed to unlock the secrets of every base pair. The completion of the Human Genome Project, while an amazing achievement, was just the start – we immediately set to work on mapping as many variations, mutations and interactions that influence our genes in health and disease as we could. And why stop at the human genome? After all, the very first genomes to be sequenced were those of microbes, and there are obvious benefits to knowing the genetic makeup of the thousands of microorganisms that live within and alongside us, especially those that cause disease. The development of new, faster genome sequencing technologies has made it feasible to sequence any microbial DNA found in a sample – the basis of the relatively new science of metagenomics.

(Shot)gunning for viral genomes

It was the identification of a gene back in 1971 – 16S ribosomal RNA – found in all bacteria, that made molecular identification of bacterial pathogens relatively simple, explains Greg Storch, Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. Greg, who assisted Kristine and Todd Wylie with the development of ViroCap says, “There is no single gene that we can amplify across all viruses, and that’s why we have to take the much broader approach of metagenomic shotgun sequencing (MSS).”

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About the Author

William Aryitey

My fascination with science, gaming, and writing led to my studying biology at university, while simultaneously working as an online games journalist. After university, I travelled across Europe, working on a novel and developing a game, before finding my way to Texere. As Associate Editor, I’m evolving my loves of science and writing, while continuing to pursue my passion for gaming and creative writing in a personal capacity.

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