Research posted recently in Nature Microbiology revealed a total of 54,118 species of virus living in the human gut.
The most shocking aspect is that 92% of those were previously unknown!
However, researchers from the Joint Genome Institute and Stanford University in California discovered that the great majority of the newly found “inhabitants” were bacteriophages (or “phages” for short).
They consume bacteria and are harmless to human cells.
When we think of viruses, we think of dangerous organisms, like measles or COVID-19.
However, numerous microscopic parasites live in our bodies, particularly in our gut, that are dealing with the microbes that live there.
Recently, the interest in the human gut microbiome has spiked.
On top of helping us digest food, the microbes may have other significant roles. They protect humans against pathogenic bacteria, impact our mental well-being, prepare our immune system during our young years, and have a persistent role in immune regulation into adulthood.
We can safely say that the human gut is, at the moment, the most well-documented microbial ecosystem on Earth.
Still, over 70% of the microbial species that inhabit it have yet to be grown in lab conditions.
That is a known fact as we have access to the genetic blueprints of the gut microbiome thanks to metagenomics. Metagenomics is a capable technique where DNA gets directly extracted from an environment and randomly sequenced, providing a sneak peek into what can be found within it and what it may be doing.
Metagenomic studies showed us how much work there is still left to catalog and isolate all the microbial species present in the human gut and even more work to do when it comes to viruses.