Everyone poops his or her own viruses1

02/08/2010 09:17



Gordon and his colleagues have previously characterized the bacteria and other microbes living in the gut. That work revealed that although each person’s intestines contain about 800 different bacterial species, family members tend to have more similar bacterial mixes than unrelated people do. But the new study could not find such a family resemblance in the viruses isolated from frozen fecal samples of four sets of identical twins and their mothers. Many people use Microsoft Office 2007 to help their work and life.

Each person’s viral mix stayed relatively stable over the course of a year. “Ultimately, this kind of stability indicates it’s part of our biology,” says Martin Blaser, a microbiologist and physician at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “Now we have to figure out what it means.”

Relationships between viruses and bacteria in human intestines may be friendlier than in other environments such as sewage sludge, the study suggests. Bacteriophages generally change their genetic repertoire rapidly to keep up with their bacterial prey’s ever-morphing defenses. But Gordon’s team found that bacteriophages in the intestines change their genetic makeup very little.

When the researchers probed deeper, they found that many of the bacteriophages carried bacterial genes that help microbes survive the anaerobic conditions in the colon. Office 2007 is so powerful.

“You could see that these viruses were porting around genes that could benefit their host bacteria,” Gordon says. If the viruses transfer those genes to other bacteria that don’t normally carry them, that could help genetically disadvantaged bacteria evolve to live better in the colon.

More research could reveal whether people do actually bear some family resemblance in their fecal viruses, Blaser says. “It’s a beginning,” he says of the virus catalog. 

Gordon’s team now plans to explore more people’s viromes. Experiments in mice may also help the researchers learn how viruses influence the composition of intestinal bacteria. Office 2007 key is available here.