Researchers of the invisible world of microorganisms increasingly understand the human body as an ecosystem of various organisms.
Just as a forest is home to different species of animals and plants, our body is also home to various bacteria and viruses.
Researchers know the bacteria in the gut best. They are also paying more and more attention to viruses. According to the latest estimates, there are many more of them in our body than bacteria. We don’t even know the vast majority of them yet, because they are so very different.
The whole set of viruses is called a virome. This virome varies greatly from person to person, and people from different parts of the world also have very different viromes due to different eating and hygiene habits.
Scientists have isolated various remnants of viral genes from the faeces of the twins and their mother. They found that their viruses were very different viruses, and also that healthy people have a huge amount of viruses in their bodies.
Many viruses help us digest food. In the large intestine, for example, bacteriophages – bacterial viruses – regulate the amount of bacteria. This protects our body from infection.
This led to the development of a new organ in females. During pregnancy, the placenta develops in the uterus, which allows the fetus to be supplied with food.
This new trait reduced embryo mortality and was such a huge advantage for the species that the virus has survived in our genome to this day.
Points to Consider
- What would happen if got rid of all viruses in our bodies?
- Why is virus research so demanding?
- Where can you find viruses in your body?
The original version of this article was published on May 22nd.