Tens of Thousands of Virus Species Live in Your Gut

TUESDAY, February 23, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Researchers have identified more than 140,000 viruses that live in the human gut, half of which were previously unknown.

The number and variety of viruses found in more than 28,000 gut microbiome samples collected from different parts of the world are surprisingly high, according to the study’s authors.

The researchers added that their findings would lead to further research into how gut viruses affect our health.

In the age of COVID, “it’s important to remember that not all viruses are harmful, but they are an integral part of the gut ecosystem. On the one hand, most of the viruses that we have found have DNA as their genetic material, which is different from the pathogens that most people are familiar with, such as SARS-CoV-2 or Zika, which are RNA virus, ”explained researcher Alexandre Almeida. He is a postdoctoral fellow at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and at the European Institute of Bioinformatics at EMBL.

“Second, these samples were mostly from healthy individuals who did not share any specific disease. It is fascinating to see how many unknown species live in our gut and try to unravel the link between them and human health,” Almeida said in a Wellcome press release.

There is great biodiversity in the human gut. Along with bacteria, it contains hundreds of thousands of viruses called bacteriophages, which can infect bacteria.

Imbalances in your gut microbiome can contribute to diseases and conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and obesity. However, there is still a lot to learn about how gut bacteria and the bacteriophages that infect them affect your health.

According to lead study author Trevor Lawley, also of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, “Bacteriophage research is undergoing a renaissance. This high-quality, large-scale catalog of human intestinal viruses comes at the right time to serve as a model. and evolutionary analysis in future studies on viromes. ”

Among the tens of thousands of viruses discovered by the researchers, there was a new, widespread clade (a group of viruses believed to have a common ancestor), which the authors call the Gubaphage. It is the second most common virus clade in the human gut, after crAssphage, which was discovered in 2014.

Both clades appear to infect similar types of human gut bacteria, but more research is needed to identify the exact functions of the newly discovered Gubaphage, the study authors said.

More information

Harvard School of Public Health has more on the microbiome.

SOURCE: Wellcome Sanger Institute, press release, February 18, 2021

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