Metagenomics is the study of the genetic material recovered directly from their natural environment with the purpose of understanding the composition, structure, dynamics, or function of microbial communities. While traditional microbiology and microbial genomics rely upon cultivated clonal cultures, direct sequencing from samples of interest can produce a whole profile of diversity present. Such work reveals that the vast majority of microbial biodiversity is missed by culture-dependent methods. Because of its ability to reveal the previously hidden diversity of microscopic life, metagenomics offers a powerful lens for viewing the microbial world, which has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the entire living world. As the price of DNA sequencing continues to fall, metagenomics now allows to explore microbial ecology at unprecedented levels of detail and scale.
The post-metagenomics era is greatly expanding our knowledge on the important roles of microbial communities thriving in organisms and the environment, as well as those present in settings or processes of industrial interests. It is now clear, for instance, that the composition and dynamics of the human microbiome plays a central role in health and disease, and a growing number of disease states are being related to an altered status of the microbiome. Thus monitoring of the microbiome has many applications not only in studying the origin of disease, but also in diagnostics and therapy through directed alterations of the microbiota.
In addition to human health, it is being increasingly recognized that metagenomics has important applications in the Agricultural or Industrial Sectors. Current uses of metagenomics in these areas include, among many others, helping to improve biofermentative productions in the Agrifood sector, preventing zoonosis and monitoring prophylactic measures in animal production, bioremediation, development of biofertilizers , and monitoring of mycorritic systems in soils.