Healthy Living

Number Of Viruses Found In Healthy People Impresses Scientists: We Are The 92%?

Microscope
The non-alarming insight to the many viruses healthy humans have. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Your body is a wonderland… for viruses, found a new study published in BMC Biology.

This research was a peek into The Human Microbiome Project under the National Institutes of Health that aims, as described on their website, “to develop tools and datasets for the research community for studying the role of these microbes in human health and disease." Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis analyzed the DNA of 102 participants ages 18 to 42 from five major “body habitats”: nose, skin, mouth, vagina, and stool. And, on average, each participant had 5.5. viruses.

That's not all. At least one virus was present in 92 percent of the participants' DNA, and some participants had up to 15 viruses. These included herpes viruses, which weren't all found to have been transmitted sexually; papilomaviruses (mostly found in the vagina); adenoviruses (common cold and pneumonia); and otherwise infection-causing virsues, like anelloviruses, parovirues; and circoviruses. To arrive at these results, researchers used a high-throughput DNA sequencing analysis no study has ever used before.

"We were impressed by the number of viruses we found," Dr. Kristine M. Wylie, lead study author and instructor of pediatrics, said in a press release. "We only sampled up to five body sites in each person and would expect to see many more viruses if we had sampled the entire body."

However, as alarming as these findings are, Wylie and her team did not find signs of illness in participants. They added it's possible they uncovered latent infections participants acquired years prior to the study. "Our results show that the human virome is a complex component of the microbial flora," researchers explained. "Some viruses establish long-term infections that may be associated with increased risk or possibly with protection from disease. A better understanding of the composition and dynamics of the virome may hold important keys to human health."

But, Dr. Gregory Storch, a virologist and chief of the Divison of the Ruth L. Siteman Professor of Pediatrics, added there is important information to be taken away. "It's very important to know what viruses are present in a person without causing a problem and what viruses could be responsible for serious illnesses that need medical attention," he said. "While more research remains, we now have a much clearer picture of the communities of viruses that naturally exist in healthy people."

Source: Wylie K, Mihindukulasuriya k, Zhou Y, Sodergren E, Storch G, et al. Metagenomic analysis of double-stranded DNA viruses in healthy adults. BMC Biology. 2014.

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