Metagenomics is the study of genetic material recovered from a wide range of environments including everything from the human lung microbiome to river bed sediments. This allows the study of entire microbial communities including previously unknown and unculturable microorganisms in their natural environment.
Metagenomics allows us to study not only microbiome composition and functionality but novel algorithms allow us to assemble individual genomes from complex communities and even estimate the replication rate of these microbes.

Most of our knowledge regarding bacterial evolution originates from cultivation studies of single bacterial strains. However, it is becoming apparent that horizontal gene transfer amongst even distantly related organisms plays a large evolutionary role in natural environments. Metagenomics allows the study of in situ bacterial evolution and how microbiomes react to evolutionary pressure such as antibiotics or adapt to environmental effects such as drought. We know that viruses and plasmids are present in large numbers in most microbiomes and we know their strong evolutionary role in bacterial evolution. Their ability to horizontally transfer genes between bacteria is behind the virulence and antibiotic resistance of many otherwise easily curable diseases. Despite these facts, they are still an often overlooked part of metagenomics studies.

Our group has a strong focus on the importance of extrachromosomal elements such as viruses and plasmids in bacterial evolution and also how they affect human health. We incorporate the latest knowledge in microbiology with the newest sequencing technology and novel informatics approaches to explore bacterial evolution using our developed bioinformatics tools and databases. We try to always have our projects done in close collaboration with clinicians, industry and wet-lab researchers to ensure that our research is applicable in the real world.


Gisle Alberg Vestergaard
Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 45 25 61 61