Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies have revolutionized multiple areas in the field of infectious diseases, from pathogen discovery to characterization of genes mediating drug resistance. Consequently, there is much anticipation that NGS technologies may be harnessed in the realm of diagnostic methods to complement or replace current culture-based and molecular microbiologic techniques. In this context, much consideration has been given to hypothesis-free, culture-independent tests that can be performed directly on primary clinical samples. The closest realizations of such universal diagnostic methods achieved to date are based on targeted amplicon and unbiased metagenomic shotgun NGS approaches. Depending on the exact details of implementation and analysis, these approaches have the potential to detect viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, and archaea, including organisms that were previously undiscovered and those that are uncultivatable. Shotgun metagenomics approaches additionally can provide information on the presence of virulence and resistance genetic elements. While many limitations to the use of NGS in clinical microbiology laboratories are being overcome with decreasing technology costs, expanding curated pathogen sequence databases, and better data analysis tools, there remain many challenges to the routine use and implementation of these methods. This review summarizes recent advances in applications of targeted amplicon and shotgun-based metagenomics approaches to infectious disease diagnostic methods. Technical and conceptual challenges are considered, along with expectations for future applications of these techniques.
Published by Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America 2019. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.