Metagenomics produces a taxonomical profile of the sample whereas metatranscriptomics helps us to obtain a functional profile. The National Institute of Health has funded a major initiative that aims to generate resources for a comprehensive characterization of the human microbiome to understand its impact on human health and disease. Studies have also shown that the structure of the microbial community is significantly different in five areas of the human body (gut, mouth, airways, urogenital, and skin), and that this seems to be independent of gender, age, and ethnicity.
The Earth Microbiome Project (EMP) is a remarkable effort started in 2010 to characterize the diversity, distribution, and structure of microbial ecosystems across the planet and has already gathered over 30,000 samples. Their focus is on diverse ecosystems, including not only the ones within the bodies of humans, animals, and plants but also terrestrial, marine, freshwater, sediment, air, and constructed environments, as well as every intersection of these ecosystems.
By focusing on what genes are expressed by the entire microbial community, metatranscriptomics sheds light on the active functional profile of a microbial community.
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