Thursday, 1 September 2011

The gut virome

Our gastrointestinal tract is alive. Teaming with all sort of weird and wonderful compounds and organisms, it truly is a world within a world. Metabolites from food, various neurotransmitters, digestive juices and enzymes; all swimming merrily around doing things which we have only started to understand, not just in the gut but also connected to lots of other systems in the body.

Our gastrointestinal bacteria constitutes a large portion of this 'biochemical soup' and has started to receive quite a lot more research inquiry recently as a result. What is perhaps only now starting to be realised is that our gut also house a lot more than just bacteria, it is also home to quite a few viruses also.

Think viruses and people automatically assume infection and bad things like bird flu. Even today, alerts are cropping up suggesting that bird flu might be making a comeback and this time with even more lethal strains. Viruses do not have a great reputation despite the fact that perhaps not all are the devil incarnate as exemplified by this recent advance in a potential anti-cancer virus.

A recent paper by Minot and colleagues* published in Genome Research suggests that our gut might house quite a few viruses and that what we eat has the potential to affect both the bacterial and viral signature in our gut.

The paper which has been summarised here suggests the gut virome, similar to the gut bacterial microbiome is both unique to a person and dynamic; in this case, changing the fibre and fat content of a persons diet resulted in changes to the gut virome.

I await more investigation on this topic. Investigation into how our gut virome interacts with our health and disease and how potentially other environmental factors might affect our viral world within a world.

* Minot S. The human gut virome: inter-individual variation and dynamic response to diet. Genome Research. August 2011.

1 comment:


    A local just down the road from us saves lives because he is just such a regular guy.