Tens of thousands of bacteriophage species – viruses that infect bacteria – live in the human gut. Scientists have known about their existence for more than a hundred years, but they know extraordinarily little about their significance for the human body.
The human digestive system is inhabited by diverse microbial communities. The manifestations of this intestinal microflora or microbiome are much more significant than previously thought by scientists. In addition to microbes, bacterial viruses or bacteriophages are also part of the intestinal microflora. Scientists have discovered tens of thousands of species of these viruses.
Luis Camarillo-Guerrero of the British Wellcome Sanger Institute and his colleagues analyzed the genetic sequences they extracted from more than 28,000 microbiome samples from a total of 28 countries. They searched for individual types of viruses in these sequences. And they had a lucky hand. Their discovery was very abundant.
Viruses in the Human Gut
Researchers have identified more than 70,000 species of phages hitherto unknown to science, although these “species” in viruses are somewhat different from what we usually imagine. Phages live in humans and infect the bacteria in the intestinal microflora. In total, scientists now know more than 140,000 species, so their number has doubled.
Biologists know extraordinarily little about these viruses – they only know that they are in the gut. The impact of these viruses on human health has not yet been mapped.
featured picture: Photo 113655231 © Rostislav Zatonskiy | Dreamstime.com