Sunday, May 8, 2011

Virome thoughts after bodyboarding

Since I started reading about the incredible diversity of the microbiome (and trying to keep up at least with those living in and on the human body) I was dreading the coming of the virome. Meaning, the coming of the point where I could no longer blissfully ignore the omnipresence of those pesky organisms, such as I have been ignoring for decades the existence of neutrinos and subatomic particles. It is strange, considering that my postdoc project was all about LCMV, the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. But for me it was more a tool, a way to produce the diabetes model where to study the "big boys," the cells of the immune system.

An incredibly informative book came out recently, Metagenomics of the Human Body, with Chapter 4 dedicated to the human virome. I sighed. And read. 
"Whenever microbes (bacteria and archaea) are present, their viruses will be found." Such a simple statement, indeed. But in a way, it is an eye-opener. Of course they will be. We are all connected. Those incredibly intricate webs of parasites within parasites, are just examples of the rule. 
"Compared with environmental viral communities, the diversity of the human virome is low," state Haynes and Rohwer in said chapter. There are only 1500 viral genotypes in a healthy human virome, in contrast to the estimated 10 thousand-1 million genotypes present in 1 kg of marine sediment. 
Somehow that number still haunted me this morning, while trying to catch some of the not-so-great waves at Tourmaline beach. I have had some sinus issues the past weeks but decided that salt water ablutions (even if involuntarily) would do me good by flushing my mucous membranes. Of course I was thinking of the effect on the pesky Streptococci and the like lurking in my throat and nearby. But what about their viruses? And the viruses of the ocean? At the end of the session I was wondering if anybody had compared the microbiome of people who spend time in the ocean regularly with the land-dwellers.
Just for fun ran the search "surfer" and "microbiome" through several databases, no match, of course. Google came back with pages dedicated to surfing scientists. I do have to mention undergrad Amanda Shore. She is studying the effect of zinc on the intestinal microbiota! Why is that interesting for me, because zinc is the only supplement I take, especially when I have infections- it is known to stimulate the immune system. 
But I have gone off-topic. As mentioned before, I need to get more acquainted with the virome. 
I pick up my weekly Science- one of the few that I like to read in paper form, and what the word virophage jumps at me. Ok so those are phages that prey on viruses. The Sputnik virophage, discovered in 2008, is the first example of a satellite virus, which multiplies inside a cell (in this case amoeba) already infected with another (giant) virus. The particular article that I saw was published in PNAS and reports a virophage that by infecting viruses that infect algae, is able to regulate the bloom of the algae in several lakes. 
Another marine article that caught my eye was a recent one in Microbe magazine about coral reefs and their microbes. The coral holobiont, a collection of microbes associated to coral reefs (and yes, there are viruses there also), varies according to seasonal and biogeographic patterns, and can also be influenced by pollution. 
Time to go and rinse my wetsuit...

No comments:

Post a Comment