More cool biology hidden in our guts


Globe-Trotting Virus Hides Inside People’s Gut Bacteria
[Via NPR Science/Health]

New viruses are a dime a dozen.

Every few months, we hear about a newly discovered flu virus that’s jumped from birds to people somewhere in the world. And the number of viruses identified in bats is “extraordinary and appears to increase almost daily,” scientists wrote last year in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

But a virus that has been quietly hiding inside millions of people on three continents — and never been noticed before? That doesn’t come along often.


The drop in cost of sequencing technology (and other tools) now allows us to answer questions we could not even asl 5 years ago. That is how rapidly things are moving.

Many people are just now getting an idea that the microbes that live in our guts have huge impacts on us and our health.

Now we are seeing more and more that viruses inside these gut flora are also important on our diets. This one looks particularly interesting. The strange story of Acanthamoeba polyphaga may be more common than we thought.

I did my postdoc working on genes from bacteriophage, the viruses that infect bacteria. To do that, I have to hand-make oligonucleotides representing the genes, 14 bases at a time. It would take a day to do seven of them at a time.

Putting them together and getting the region sequenced in order to make sure the oligonucleotides had been made correctly would take a couple of months.

It is simply amazing to me how far we have come.