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Longevity Briefs: Research Finds Over 70,000 New Viruses That Live In The Human Gut

Posted on 22 February 2021

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: The populations of bacteria that live within our guts have emerged as being hugely influential for our health. The gut microbiome affects not only the way our guts process the food that we eat, but can also impact the immune system, the central nervous system and more. However, the microbiome isn’t just made up of bacteria: our guts are also home to countless species of virus that infect bacteria. Since the health of bacterial populations can be improved or worsened by these viruses, we also need to understand them in order to fully understand how the gut microbiome influences human health.

What did the researchers do: Researchers analysed a dataset of 28,060 human gut metagenomes (genetic data from microbiome samples) and 2,898 genomes of cultured gut bacteria. Machine learning technology was used to assist in this process. From this analysis, they produced a Gut Phage Database – a database of distinct viral genomes found within human guts.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Around 142 000 viral genomes were obtained from this dataset, over half of which had not been previously identified. Researchers also identified a group of viruses with a common ancestor named the Gubaphage. This group was found to be the second most prevalent within the human gut.

More research is needed to better understand how viral populations within the gut affect human health. This Gut Phage Database serves to provide a resource that can be used by future studies.

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    Massive expansion of human gut bacteriophage diversity:

    Over 100,000 Viruses Identified in the Gut Microbiome:

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