The genetic material from all of the microorganisms living on and in an individual.
Use in clinical context
There are trillions of microorganisms that live on and in humans. Many of these are beneficial or neutral, while some can cause problems. Collectively, the genetic material from all these microorganisms is known as the microbiome.
By sequencing the DNA from the microbiome of an individual, it can be inferred which species of microorganisms are present and how abundant each species is. It can then be possible to identify changes in the microbiome that may be impacting on the individual’s health.
Usually, only a section of the microbiome from a particular part of the body, for example the gut or skin, is sequenced, depending on the clinical question. There are an increasing number of conditions, affecting many different parts of the body, where there is an association with the composition of the gut microbiome. Although more research is required to translate this to clinical benefit, evidence shows that an individual’s microbiome can impact more widely than that the part of the body where it resides.