From the WSJ “Big Data and Bacteria: Mapping the New York Subway’s DNA”

Great article about a great study.  Read them both.

Failing that, here’s my short version:

A study entitled “Geospatial Resolution of Human and Bacterial Diversity with City-Scale Metagenomics” came out yesterday that is just fascinating on multiple levels.  This article describes a large-scale metagenomics study carried out by the PathoMap project at Weill Cornell Medical College.   Basically the researchers collected hundreds of samples over 18th months in the New York City subway system.   They performed metagenomics on all these samples and are reporting their results.   I could write pages and pages on all of this stuff but it’d be better to just read the WSJ article.

As a teaser, these are a few of things I think are most awesome about this study:

-By using metagenomics instead of just a 16S survey they were able to look at a much broader swathe of life, including looking at the ancestry of human sequences and comparing that to US Census data for New York.

-Because the researchers found sequences that match closely to those of bubonic plague and anthrax they managed to raise the ire of the NY City Health Department even though no one should be surprised at this finding by now.

-The project involved a number of undergrads and high school students, as well as releasing the data in an interactive format on the website.  A+ for outreach and citizen science involvement.


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David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter