The Microbial Genomics Section (MGS) explores the genetic diversity of microscopic organisms, known collectively as microbiota (bacteria, fungi, viruses), that reside in and on humans, contributing to both health and disease. Humans coexist with billions of microbiota in our guts and on our skin and we study and understand human health with this perspective.
It is increasingly clear that possibly pathogenic bacteria flourish and compete within a larger microbial community. MGS researchers have developed methodologies to characterize microbial communities with genomic sequencing and analysis, which offer significant advantages over traditional culture-based studies. MGS research addresses two major areas of clinical microbial genomics: foundational studies of the human skin microbiome and tracking of hospital-associated bacterial pathogens. In this effort, the group integrates two powerful resources: the NIH Clinical Center and the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center.
MGS performed the first skin microbiome survey, characterizing the diversity of microbes that live on normal volunteers, and determined that humans are ecosystems with niche-dependent bacterial populations (dry, moist or oily regions). Together with clinical collaborators, we are extending these studies to patient populations with common atopic dermatitis (eczema). Our expertise in microbial genomic sequencing has grown to include significant efforts to understand hospital-acquired infections, particularly outbreaks of multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacterial infections.
MGS is developing algorithms based on whole-genome sequence data to rapidly assess whether newly identified isolates represent possible hospital-transmission or new strains brought into the hospital by patients. The section's future goal is to use genomic information to model outbreaks, monitor evolution of antibiotic resistance and develop risk assessment strategies.
Dr. Julie Segre received her B.A. summa cum laude in mathematics from Amherst College, where she now serves on the board of trustees. She received her Ph.D. in 1996 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Eric Lander, Ph.D., and the newly formed genome center. Dr. Segre then performed postdoctoral training with Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D., an expert in skin biology, at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Segre joined the National Human Genome Research Institute of NIH in 2000 and was promoted to a senior investigator with tenure in 2007. Dr. Segre's laboratory utilizes high-throughput sequencing and develops algorithms to study the microbial diversity of human skin in both health and disease states, with a focus on eczema and other microbial-associated infections. Dr. Segre published the first topographical maps of human skin bacterial and fungal diversity. Dr. Segre's laboratory also develops genomic tools to track hospital-acquired infections of multi-drug resistant organisms, including the NIH's recent Klebsiella pneumoniae outbreak.
Dr. Segre's research is based on active collaborations with the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center and the clinical departments of Infection Control, Microbiology, and Dermatology. Dr. Segre is a leader in the NIH Roadmap Human Microbiome Project, communicating with multiple media sources to promote the concept of humans as ecological landscapes. Together with the NIH epidemiologist, Tara Palmore, M.D., Segre received the 2013 Service to America Medal, considered among the most prestigious for a federal employee, for their work to establish the clinical utility of microbial genomics.
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Last Updated: January 7, 2014