Microbial fervour is in the air

Published: Friday 15 April 2005

-- (Credit: Emkay) After piecing together dna sequences from oceans, chicken, rice, dog and man, geneticists are now chasing microbes in the urban air, reported the online edition of the journal Nature on March 9, 2005. Researchers at a private genomic institute set up by genomics pioneer Craig Venter in the us are embarking on an ambitious project to find out the microbes that flit through the air of Manhattan, us. For this, they will collect dozens of indoor and outdoor air samples and analyse them for fragments of microbial dna. They hope that identifying the microbes that enter our lungs will help combat urban diseases like asthma.

The team has already perfected a sequencing technique that helps map thousands of microbes at one go: the "shotgun sequencing" technique they used for mapping 1.3 million new genes and 1,800 new species in the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda last year. It has also designed a filter to sift through some 1,400 cubic metres of air daily.

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