Sequencing the human microbiome in health and disease

Michael J Cox, William O C M Cookson, Miriam F Moffatt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

74 Citations (Scopus)


Molecular techniques have revolutionized the practice of standard microbiology. In particular, 16S rRNA sequencing, whole microbial genome sequencing and metagenomics are revealing the extraordinary diversity of microorganisms on Earth and their vast genetic and metabolic repertoire. The increase in length, accuracy and number of reads generated by high-throughput sequencing has coincided with a surge of interest in the human microbiota, the totality of bacteria associated with the human body, in both health and disease. Traditional views of host/pathogen interactions are being challenged as the human microbiota are being revealed to be important in normal immune system function, to diseases not previously thought to have a microbial component and to infectious diseases with unknown aetiology. In this review, we introduce the nature of the human microbiota and application of these three key sequencing techniques for its study, highlighting both advances and challenges in the field. We go on to discuss how further adoption of additional techniques, also originally developed in environmental microbiology, will allow the establishment of disease causality against a background of numerous, complex and interacting microorganisms within the human host.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R88-94
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
Issue numberR1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2013


  • Bacteria/classification
  • Genome, Bacterial
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing/methods
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Metagenomics
  • Microbiota/genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial/genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics


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