Tuesday, February 23, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Researchers have identified more than 140,000 viruses living 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 regions of the world are surprisingly high, according to the study authors.
The researchers added that their findings would lead to new research to study how intestinal viruses affect our health.
In the age of COVID, “it is important to remember that not all viruses are harmful, but are an integral part of the gut ecosystem. First, most viruses we find have DNA as their genetic material, unlike what pathogens most people are familiar with, such as SARS-CoV-2 or Zika. RNA, “explained researcher Alexander Almeida. He is a postdoctoral fellow at the Welcom Sanger Institute and the European Institute of Bioinformatics at EMBL.
“Second, these specimens came mostly from healthy people who did not share specific diseases. It is fascinating to see how many unknown species live in our gut, and to try to unravel them for human health,” Almeida said in the Wellcome news 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.
An imbalance in your gut microbiome can contribute to diseases and conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and obesity. However, much remains to be learned about how gut bacteria and the bacteriophages that infect them affect your health.
According to research by senior author Trevor Lauli, also of the Wellcome Singer Institute, “Bacteriophage research is currently experiencing a renaissance. This high-quality and comprehensive catalog of human intestinal viruses comes at the right time to serve as an outline plan for ecological guidance and evolutionary analysis in future virom research.”
Among the tens of thousands of viruses discovered by the researchers was a very common new parade (a group of viruses believed to have a common ancestor), which the authors call Gubaphage. This is the second most common virus substrate in the human gut, after CrAssphage, which was discovered in 2014.
The two amphibians appear to infect similar types of human gut bacteria, but further research is needed to locate the exact functions of the recently discovered gobafage, the study authors said.
Harvard Public Health School has more stuff on the microbiome.
SOURCE: Welcome Singer Institute, News Release, February 18, 2021