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Scientists have identified more than 70,000 previously unknown viruses in the human gut that infect the bacteria that live there, but how they affect our bodies is still a mystery.
The “Life Science” website previously reported that the gut microbiome, or the community of microbes that we carry in our digestive system, plays an important role in digesting food and regulating the immune system. But several studies have also linked imbalances in the gut microbiome to diseases such as liver disease, obesity and allergies.
However, little is known about the microbiome. And although it contains a variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, previous studies have focused primarily on gut bacteria for their ease of detection.
In the new study, a group of researchers used a method called metagenomics to identify viruses. This method involves analyzing all the genetic material from the microbial community together and then mapping the individual sequences that have been found for a particular species. They analyzed more than 28,000 gut microbiome samples from 28 countries.
This process revealed the complete genomes of more than 140,000 types of viruses living in the human gut (however, one person carries only a small portion of these types). Although many types of viruses live in the intestine, they focused on viruses that can infect bacteria, called “phages”.
Lead author Luis Camarillo-Guerrero, a recent PhD graduate from the UK’s Wellcome Sanger Institute, said researchers have limited their range to phages “because we are still discovering their role in human health. Most of them are not harmful to us and are simply an integral part of the microorganism in us. Our bodies. “
Phages may play a central role in the gut microbiome, for example, by providing their bacterial hosts with beneficial traits and influencing how these bacteria evolve.
“Since bacterial communities are a crucial component of our gut, it is not difficult to imagine that phages could play a major role in maintaining a healthy balance in our gut,” Camarillo Guerrero told Live Science in an email. However, there are known cases in which phages have contributed to the disease, for example, both diphtheria (diphtheria), which is a dangerous bacterial infection, and food poisoning, a dangerous disease that attacks the nerves of the body, resulting from toxins made by the genes of the phages.
Guerrero added that they have published the genomes of these viruses that invade bacteria in a new database they created called “The Gut Phage Database”, which can be used to direct further studies on these viruses. He continued, “The genome is like the blueprint of an organism. The amount of information that we can extract from knowing the DNA sequence of an organism is very large.”
Source: Live Science