Most of the DNA in your body is not really 'yours'. It belongs to the myriad of microbes that live inside your gut. A new DNA-based approach to mapping those bacteria – and the viruses that attack them – could help beat antibiotic resistance and treat diseases such as type 2 diabetes, asthma and obesity.
“Using our method, researchers are now able to identify and collect genomes from previously unknown microorganisms in even highly complex microbial societies. This provides us with an overview we have not enjoyed previously,” says Søren Brunak in a press release from the Technical University of Denmark. Brunak spearheaded the research together with Henrik Bjørn Nielsen.
As reported in the July edition of the leading science magazine Nature Biotechnology, the team mapped hundreds of previously unknown bacteria and bacterial viruses found in the human gut. They also dissected the relationships between the bacteria and the viruses.
“Our study tells us which bacterial viruses attack which bacteria,” says Nielsen in the press release.
Sorting out the intricate interplay between the gut bacteria, their viruses and our bodies is set to transform the way we treat many diseases. It could prove particularly powerful in fighting the looming problem of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.
“We have previously been experimenting with using bacteria and viruses to fight disease, but this was shelved because antimicrobial agents have been so effective in combating many infectious diseases. If we can learn more about who attacks who, then bacterial viruses could be a viable alternative to antimicrobial agents,” says Nielsen.
by Lillian Sando