THURSDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- Each person has a unique
collection of what could be described as friendly viruses in their
lower intestine, new research shows.
U.S. researchers studied female identical twins and their
mothers and found that even each identical twin had a distinctive
viral "fingerprint" in the lower intestine. The study appears in
the July 15 issue of the journal
In addition, more than 80 percent of the viruses were novel --
that is, they had never before been discovered, according to the
researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in
These friendly viruses are believed to influence the activities
of gut microbes that offer a number of benefits, including helping
humans digest certain components of our diets (such as plant-based
carbohydrates) that we're unable to digest on our own, the study
authors explained in a university news release.
The viruses also may act as indicators of the overall health of
the microbial community in the gut as it deals with challenges or
recovers after an illness or treatment, they noted.
"Viruses are the major predators on planet Earth," senior author Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, director of Washington University's Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology, said in the news release.
"Much of the information we have about viruses that live together with bacteria comes from studies of environmental habitats, like the ocean," Gordon explained. "We wanted to know the nature of viruses and their lifestyle in the most populous microbial community that inhabits our bodies -- the one in our gut."
The researchers plan to investigate how these friendly viruses
establish themselves in the gut and how they're influenced by the
nutritional status of their host.
To learn more about viruses, visit the
California Institute of Technology.