High-throughput sequencing and clinical microbiology: progress, opportunities and challenges
High-throughput sequencing is sweeping through clinical microbiology, transforming our discipline in its wake. It is already providing an enhanced view of pathogen biology through rapid and inexpensive whole-genome sequencing and more sophisticated applications such as RNA-seq. It also promises to deliver high-resolution genomic epidemiology as the ultimate typing method for bacteria. However, the most revolutionary effect of this ‘disruptive technology’ is likely to be creation of a novel sequence-based, culture-independent diagnostic microbiology that incorporates microbial community profiling, metagenomics and single-cell genomics. We should prepare for the coming ‘technological singularity’ in sequencing, when this technology becomes so fast and so cheap that it threatens to out-compete existing diagnostic and typing methods in microbiology.