Unknown Human Gut Viruses
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EMBL-EBI & Wellcome Sanger Institute Researchers Identifies New & Unknown  Virus Species In Human Gut

Viruses are one of the smallest and abundant organisms on our planet. Recently scientists at the EMBL-EBI (EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute) & the Wellcome Sanger Institute have discovered beyond 140,000 viral species present in the human gut. Part of the species has never been observed before.

The article published on 18th February 2021 in the journal Cell, comprises a study of more than 28,000 gut microbiome specimens isolated from various nations around the world. The diversity and number of the viruses the scientists discovered were astonishingly high, and the information paves way for several novel research paths for discerning the mechanism behind the effects of gut-viruses on human health.

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The human gut is a wonderful biodiverse niche. Apart from bacteria, numerous viruses namely, bacteriophages, which infect bacteria, also are present in the gut.

It is understood that the disparity in the human gut microbiome can contribute to conditions as well as intricate problems such as obesity, allergies & inflammatory bowel diseases. However, reasonably less is understood about the function of the gut microbiome, and bacteriophages infecting them, and their effect on human disease and health.

With a DNA-sequencing approach referred to as metagenomics, scientists from  EMBL-EBI & the Wellcome Sanger Institute researched and categorized the biodiversity of viral species present in 2,898 bacterial isolate genomes grown from the human gut and within 28,060 public human gut metagenomes.

The study determined beyond 140,000 viral species dwelling in the human gut, from which around half was unknown to the human world.

Dr. Alexandre Almeida, a postdoctoral fellow from Wellcome Sanger Institute & EMBL-EBI stated that it is crucial to note that all viruses are not bad, yet represent a basic part of the gut biota. The remarkable aspect is that among the viruses discovered, most of them have DNA as genetic material, unlike most known pathogens like Zika or SARS-CoV-2, which are RNA viruses. The next thing is that these samples are isolated mainly from healthy people with no particular diseases. It is amazing to find the numerous unknown species present in the human gut and to attempt and clarify the bridge between human health & the gut microbiome.

Unknown & New Human Gut Viruses
Image credits: Cell journal

Within the tens of thousands of identified viruses, a novel widespread clade-a viral group thought to have a common ancestor-was discovered, which writers describe as Gubaphage. This was discovered to be the next most common virus clade present in the human gut following the crAssphage, which was identified in 2014.

Both of the viruses appear to infect similar forms of human gut bacteria, however, without additional study it is hard to know the precise features of the freshly found Gubaphage.

Dr. Luis F. Camarillo-Guerrero, the first writer of the article, Wellcome Sanger Institute claimed that a significant thing of their study was to assure that the remodeled viral genomes were of supreme quality. A strict quality control pipeline along with a machine learning method facilitated them to alleviate the infection and acquire highly complete viral genetic makeups. Top-quality viral genomes help to clearly understand the function of the viruses in the human gut microbiome, incly=uding the unraveling of novel therapeutic measures like antimicrobials from bacteriophage sources.

The outcomes of the research become the basis of the GPD (Gut Phage Database), a highly curated database with 142,809 non-redundant phage genomic sequences that will be an indispensable library for those exploring bacteriophages and the part they serve on maintaining the health of both us and our gut bacteria.

Dr. Trevor Lawley, senior writer of the article, Wellcome Sanger Institute mentioned that bacteriophage study is now experiencing a revitalization. This supreme-quality, large-scale list of human intestinal viruses comes at the proper interval to function as a blueprint to help evolutionary and ecological analysis in the upcoming virome research.

Unknown Human Gut Viruses



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