The development of next-generation sequencing (NGS) has significantly improved our abilities to analyze microbial communities. NGS-based techniques such as 16S sequencing have enabled scientists worldwide to understand better complex microbial communities in the human body or the environment and have largely replaced classical culture-dependent techniques.
Analyzing 16S sequencing data allows bacterial and archaeal profiling down to the genus level. This has been shown using microbial community standards. The method is based on amplifying and sequencing the 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene, a common marker for bacteria and archaea. As a major advantage over other techniques, it allows the analysis of bacteria and archaea in samples with high proportions of host DNA (e.g., from plants or humans). This makes 16S sequencing the method of choice for samples with relatively low numbers of bacteria and archaea, such as isolated DNA from the skin, salvia, plant material, tumor tissue, or body fluids.
Applications of 16S sequencing are diverse and include:
- Disease monitoring
- Microbial biomarker detection
- Drug development
- Characterization of bacterial and archaeal communities