Metagenomics in pediatrics: using a shotgun approach to diagnose infections

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Abstract

Purpose of review

With the advent of novel massively parallel sequencing technologies and bioinformatic processing capabilities, clinical applications of metagenomic studies are rapidly being integrated into medicine. Through this paper, we hope to introduce this powerful new tool to clinicians caring for children.

Recent findings

Very few studies have looked at metagenomic applications in children. The ability to perform these types of massive sequencing projects was not possible as little as 7 years ago.

Summary

Metagenomics is defined as the study of all genetic material within a given sample. Novel sequencing and analysis approaches allow for unbiased assays to identify pathogens missed by targeted sequencing and culture methods. Although not widely available yet, metagenomic studies have been used to diagnose pediatric infections, identify resistance genes in clinical samples, and characterize outbreaks. Although cost and turnaround time have limited its application in clinical laboratories to date, novel platforms and increasing comfort with these techniques continue to push diagnostic metagenomics into clinical pediatric medicine. Much work in this field is yet to be done. That being said, we feel that pediatric clinicians will be using metagenomic techniques in the care of children with increasing frequency in the near future.

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