The vast virome | Science News

Real Science. Real News.

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


The vast virome

Scientists are just beginning to get a handle on the many roles of viruses in the human ecosystem

2:00pm, December 27, 2013

I, VIRUS  When it comes to the microbiome, bacteria get all the press. But virologists are starting to realize that their subjects also do a lot more than make people sick. 

Studying complex diseases is like trying to solve a massive jigsaw puzzle with a blank box cover and who knows how many missing pieces. Scientists now realize that human genes form the borders of many disorders. But it turns out that the picture can’t be filled in without considering microbes, especially the bacteria and viruses that make the human body home.

Four years ago, evolutionary geneticist Vicente Pérez-Brocal found himself trying to complete the Crohn’s disease puzzle. As a member of a research group headed by Andrés Moya at the University of Valencia in Spain, Pérez-Brocal was tasked with determining if viruses fit into the picture.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease thought to result when the immune system goes into overdrive, causing chronic inflammation that can damage the intestines and raise the risk of colon cancer. Genes and personal habits, such as diet and smoking, play a role, but there are still gaps. Scientists think

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content