This research article published in Nature Biotechnology introduced a new method of segregating human gut metagenomics data into specific biological entities (e.g. microbial species or viruses) without the need for reference sequences.


Nielsen and collaborators developed a method based on binning co-abundant genes across a series of metagenomic samples. The method was tested on human gut microbiome samples from 396 individuals. From them, more than 7000 co-abundance gene groups were identified. After that, the authors were able to assemble more than 200 high-quality microbial genomes from 741 metagenomic species identified.


The study, as concluded the authors, focused attention on many previously unknown species of bacteria in the gut, as well as viruses that attack them. The method proposed could be generally used to sets of deep-sequenced shotgun metagenomics samples, which could facilitate advances in understanding microbial biology, de novo genome assembly and the characterisation of complex metagenomic samples.


Nielsen HB et al. (2014) Identification and assembly of genomes and genetic elements in complex metagenomic samples without using reference genomes Nature Biotechnology 32(8) pp. 822-828. doi:10.1038/nbt.2939


For additional information, see the GMFH’s exclusive interview with the first authors of the study, Henrik Bjørn Nielsen and Mathieu Almeida.


Furthermore, we have collected a selection of news articles that covered this research:

Look Ma, no reference genome! in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (July, 7 2014)

New gut bacteria finding could circumvent antibiotic resistance crisis in CTV News (July, 8 2014)