A Google For Microbiome Research

Scientists in China have devised a computerized scoring system to evaluate the novelty and impact of microbiome research.

AsianScientist (Nov. 23, 2018) – Scientists from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (QIBEBT) in China have developed a search engine for microbial ecosystems, also known as microbiomes. Their findings are published in mBio.

Almost every corner of our planet is colonized by bacteria. While some bacteria may cause disease, the vast majority of them are in fact pivotal to human health and play important roles in shaping entire ecosystems.

To unravel the secrets of microbiomes, several large, globally coordinated microbiome sequencing projects, such as the Earth Microbiome Project and the Human Microbiome Project, have been launched since 2010. These have led to an ongoing expansion of the number of known microbiome sequences (metagenomic data), which describe the structure and function of microbial societies.

To derive deeper insights into this huge database of microbiome sequences, researchers at QIBEBT have devised a Microbiome Search Engine (MSE).

“MSE makes comparison of microbiomes at the global scale possible, enabling a bird’s eye view of microbiome data universe,” said study co-author Dr. Su Xiaoquan.

Using MSE, the researchers identified microbiomes mainly from marine environments and mother-baby interactions as areas of significant novelty and research interest. They suggested that MSE can be used to help the scientific community and the funding agencies decide which research areas to pursue in the field of microbiology.

“This work is of great interest to the microbiome research community and is broadly useful to explore available amplicon datasets,” said Dr. Emiley Eloe-Fadrosh from the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, who was not involved in the research.

As one of the first big data mining tools introduced by Chinese scientists involved in the Earth Microbiome Project, MSE will support the ongoing mining of immense datasets being generated by EMP, as well as facilitate discoveries under the CAS Microbiome Project, said the researchers.

The article can be found at: Su et al. (2018) Identifying and Predicting Novelty in Microbiome Studies.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Shutterstock.
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