“Our bodies are like coral reefs, inhabited by many diverse creatures interacting with each other and with us,” said Frederic Bushman, PhD, professor of Microbiology, and senior author of the study The interactions between viruses, bacteria, and the human host likely have significant consequences for human health and disease, especially in the delicate ecosystem of the gut microbiome.
In this work, lead author Sam Minot, Bushman, and other members of the research team investigated the dynamics of the gut virome during perturbations to diet. The group studied six healthy volunteers–some received a high fat and low fiber diet, others a low fat and high fiber diet, and one an ad-lib diet.
By analyzing DNA sequences from viruses and bacteria present in stool of the volunteers over the course of eight days, they found that although the largest variation in virus diversity observed occurred between individuals, over time dietary intervention significantly changed the proportions of virus populations in individuals on the same diet, so that the viral populations became more similar.
“The study provides a new window on the vast viral populations that live in the human gut, demonstrates that they vary radically between individuals, and shows that dietary changes can affect not just bacterial populations but also viral populations,” Bushman said.
This work was supported by the Human Microbiome Roadmap Demonstration Project, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the National Institutes of Health, and the Molecular Biology Core of The Center for Molecular Studies in Digestive and Liver Diseases.
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