The most abundant organisms on Earth are viruses; most notable are bacteriophages or viruses that infect bacteria. Bacteriophages (phages) come in many shapes and sizes; some include only the capsid head, while others also include a tail. Viruses, however, are not “alive”; they can only replicate within their host. When a phage infects a host cell, they interject their own genetic material into the bacterium and use it to replicate their own DNA (or RNA). Given their importance in the environment, phages have been explored within multiple diverse locations, e.g. the polar icecaps and soil. Phages are also critical players in the human microbiome. Our current knowledge of phages, however, is primarily limited to species which can be grown in the lab. Investigation of complex microbial communities, bacteria and phages, provides a unique opportunity to characterize phages never before seen. By sequencing these communities, the genomes of the phages can be determined, providing a wealth of information about these communities. It is, however, a challenging computational problem. Our project is specifically focused on developing a computational tool to identify and assemble phage genomes from sequences generated from highly diverse, complex communities.
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