Scientists have found 140 thousand previously unknown viruses in the human intestine

The gut microbiome, or the community of bacteria that is found in the human digestive system, plays

important role in food digestion and regulation of the immune system. But many studies have also linked imbalances in gut microbes to liver disease, obesity, and allergies.

However, the microbiome is generally surprisingly knownfew. Although the microbiome includes many microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, previous research has focused primarily on gut bacteria. The point is, they are much easier to spot.

In a new study, a group of researchersused the method of metagenomics to identify viruses. It includes the analysis of all the genetic material of the bacterial community and the subsequent comparison of the found individual sequences with specific species. They analyzed over 28,000 gut microbiome samples from people in 28 countries.

In the course of this process, the complete genomes of more than 140 thousand species of viruses inhabiting the human intestine were identified. However, it is worth noting that one person carries only a small fraction of these species.

Basically, the intestines are inhabited by bacteriophages, orphages. These are viruses that selectively infect bacterial and archaeal cells. Most often, bacteriophages multiply inside bacteria and cause their lysis. As a rule, a bacteriophage consists of a protein coat and a single-stranded or double-stranded nucleic acid genetic material.

Researchers have limited their optionsbacteriophages, as we tried to find out their role in human health. Most of them are not harmful to humans and are simply an integral part of the microbiota of our body, but perhaps their functions do not end there.

Phages may play a central role in the gut microbiome - for example, providing beneficial properties to their bacterial hosts and influencing how these bacteria develop.

Since bacterial communities area critical component of our gut, it is not hard to imagine that phages may play a key role in maintaining a healthy balance in the human gut. However, there are cases when phages contributed to the development of the disease. For example, diphtheria, a serious bacterial infection, and botulism, a serious disease that affects the body's nerves. The disease is caused by toxins that are encoded by phage genes.

In an interview for Live Science, scientists said,that they published the genomes of viruses that invaded bacteria in a new database they created called the Intestinal Phage Database. Scientists said it could be used to conduct further research on these viruses.

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