Twenty years of bacterial genome sequencing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Institute of Microbiology and Infection, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.
  • Microbiology and Infection Unit, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK.


Twenty years ago, the publication of the first bacterial genome sequence, from Haemophilus influenzae, shook the world of bacteriology. In this Timeline, we review the first two decades of bacterial genome sequencing, which have been marked by three revolutions: whole-genome shotgun sequencing, high-throughput sequencing and single-molecule long-read sequencing. We summarize the social history of sequencing and its impact on our understanding of the biology, diversity and evolution of bacteria, while also highlighting spin-offs and translational impact in the clinic. We look forward to a 'sequencing singularity', where sequencing becomes the method of choice for as-yet unthinkable applications in bacteriology and beyond.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-94
Number of pages8
JournalNature Reviews Microbiology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • DNA, Bacterial, Genome, Bacterial, History, 20th Century, History, 21st Century, Humans, Molecular Epidemiology, Molecular Typing, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Historical Article, Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't