Twenty years of bacterial genome sequencing

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2015 Dec;13(12):787-94. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3565. Epub 2015 Nov 9.


Twenty years ago, the publication of the first bacterial genome sequence, from Haemophilus influenzae, shook the world of bacteriology. In this Timeline, we review the first two decades of bacterial genome sequencing, which have been marked by three revolutions: whole-genome shotgun sequencing, high-throughput sequencing and single-molecule long-read sequencing. We summarize the social history of sequencing and its impact on our understanding of the biology, diversity and evolution of bacteria, while also highlighting spin-offs and translational impact in the clinic. We look forward to a 'sequencing singularity', where sequencing becomes the method of choice for as-yet unthinkable applications in bacteriology and beyond.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics*
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Molecular Epidemiology / history
  • Molecular Epidemiology / methods
  • Molecular Epidemiology / trends
  • Molecular Typing / history
  • Molecular Typing / methods
  • Molecular Typing / trends
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / history*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / trends


  • DNA, Bacterial