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Resolution Revolution: How Whole Genome Sequencing Changes Microbiome Profiling

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In the 1970s, the 19inch CRTV was released to the American public and with it came television shows that profoundly impacted American culture. Families who used to gather around the radio were now treated with nightly news, comedies, and cultural phenomenon. The advent of modern television also brought with it, technologies to enhance the television viewing experience, things like television dinners, the remote control, and music videos became all the rage.

A few decades later, microwave dinners, music videos, and cable television are as antiquated as AOL, Netscape, and Sega Genesis. Technology moves the world forward and cutting-edge discoveries of the past are only remembered for what advancements they allowed for in the future.

Advancements in Biotech are moving fast

Biotechnology, just like technology in other sectors, in moving at rapid speed. The ability of modern science to detect disease, predict health outcomes, and prevent illness is rapidly expanding. This is no more apparent than in the field of the microbiome. Over the last few years, there have been over 10,000 scientific papers linking the microbiome to improving our overall health. Each of these peer-reviewed papers include findings from thousands of hours of research and experimentation.

What’s the Resolution?

Now the question is, what should we do with all of this data? Is the data itself useful? While all scientific data moves the field of microbiome research forward, the question is the same one we ask about the television. What’s the resolution? A lot of studies and data presented, and

companies offering microbiome testing for consumers use antiquated 16s technology to view the microbiome. Why does this matter? From a consumer perspective, the best way to describe the difference between 16s technology and the newest form of technology (whole genome shotgun analysis aka WGS) is the television example explained above. Just like today’s 4K televisions provide a superior viewing experience compared to the original CRTV, WGS provides a much clearer picture of the microbiome than traditional 16s technology. Take a look for yourself. The graph below shows comparison between 16s and WGS sequencing technology for the same microbial profile.

 

As you can see, Whole Genome Sequencing allows the ability to view specific bacteria types with more resolution and provides genus level information.

Does Resolution Matter?

In a word, absolutely. The ability to view bacteria at the species level is critical because some bacteria at the genus level can be both good and bad. Take Bacteroides at 53% for example.1 This organism has been linked to everything from infectious diarrhea2 to reducing weight.3 That’s not really helpful when the average person is trying to understand their gut. That’s why to really understand the gut microbiome and the organisms within it, you need to use Whole Genome Sequencing. Just like when watching television, the better resolution, the better the experience.

 

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