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Mol Ecol. 2013 Jan;22(2):271-2.

‘Big data’ from shrinking pathogen populations.

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Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


Falling costs for genome sequencing and genotyping mean that population genomic data sets are becoming commonplace for a wide variety of species. Once these data are used for the initial tasks of investigating population structure and demographic history, however, is there reason to go back for more? In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Nkhoma et al. (2013) explore the applications of longitudinal genomic diversity data for detecting changes in the prevalence and transmission of the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite in South-East Asia. While this study finds several genetic signatures indicative of reduced disease transmission, other measures, such as short-term effective population size, geographical population structure and heterozygosity, were not informative. These results indicate the potential contribution of genomic data to the surveillance of small, dynamic populations, whether they are at risk of extinction or targeted for elimination. The interpretation of such data will require close consideration of biological context, however, at both the species and the population level.

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