It seems increasingly clear that we can sometimes leapfrog the sequence of experiments that were previously necessary to answer a complex research question, simply by sequencing the bacterial genome. Furthermore, the genomic data we acquire allow us to pose entirely new questions that we had not actually ever thought about before.
Streptococcal biology is no exception; so-called genomic fishing expeditions helped to identify un-anticipated research questions, such as ‘what is the basis for the link between streptococcal capsule and the lymphatic system?’ Genomic studies have also helped to answer longstanding questions about serotype-specific phenotypes and may yet answer questions about disease and species specificity; including evolution from animal to human pathogen. Evolution of each streptococcal species can be laid bare through genome sequencing, though this requires that strains are accessible, underpinning the importance of curating isolates from the past. Genomic science is also an increasingly important tool within Clinical Infection; confirming or refuting an outbreak is of real importance when trying to prevent the next one. However outbreak studies can provide unique insight as to what streptococci are capable of. Unexpected transmission events occur seemingly routinely in the hospital environment and we need to better-understand the capacity of streptococci to transmit from person to person in such environments.
While the reading and interpretation of genomic data may remain the domain of specialists, it behoves the wider scientific and clinical research community to embrace these findings and identify the most important questions that are yet to be answered.