Trait-based analysis of the human skin microbiome
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The past decade of microbiome research has concentrated on cataloging the diversity of taxa in different environments. The next decade is poised to focus on microbial traits and function. Most existing methods for doing this perform pathway analysis using reference databases. This has both benefits and drawbacks. Function can go undetected if reference databases are coarse-grained or incomplete. Likewise, detection of a pathway does not guarantee expression of the associated function. Finally, function cannot be connected to specific microbial constituents, making it difficult to ascertain the types of organisms exhibiting particular traits—something that is important for understanding microbial success in specific environments. A complementary approach to pathway analysis is to use the wealth of microbial trait information collected over years of lab-based, culture experiments.