Exciting research in a new area - our trillions of viruses or virome. From the new research it looks like some of the viruses are beneficial to us and help keep us healthy. It's time to stop thinking of all viruses (and bacteria) as bad, but instead that some viruses are necessary for good health. From Science Daily:
Microbiologists at NYU Langone Medical Center say they have what may be the first strong evidence that the natural presence of viruses in the gut -- or what they call the 'virome' -- plays a health-maintenance and infection-fighting role similar to that of the intestinal bacteria that dwell there and make up the "microbiome."
In a series of experiments in mice that took two years to complete, the NYU Langone team found that infection with the common murine norovirus, or MNV, helped mice repair intestinal tissue damaged by inflammation and helped restore the gut's immune defenses after its microbiome had been wiped out by antibiotic therapy. In a report on their work to be published in the journal Nature online Nov. 19, researchers say they also found that MNV bolstered the immune system in fighting off tissue damage.
"Our research offers compelling data about the mutually supportive relationship between viruses and bacteria in the mouse gut and lays the groundwork for further research on precisely how the virome supports the immune system, which likely applies to humans, as well," says senior study investigator Ken Cadwell, PhD, an assistant professor at NYU Langone.
"We have known for a long time that people get infected all the time with viruses and bacteria, and they don't get sick," says Cadwell. "Now we have scientific evidence that not every viral infection is bad, but may actually be beneficial to health, just as we know that many bacterial infections are good for maintaining health."
According to Cadwell, until now, scientists have had mostly trace genetic evidence of a virome's existence, but none to confirm its normal presence in the gut or to clarify whether it plays a harmful, neutral, or helpful role.
What the NY Times had to say about this new area of research:
When we talk about viruses, usually we focus on the suffering caused by Ebola, influenza, and the like. But our bodies are home to trillions of viruses, and new research hints that some of them may actually be keeping us healthy.
“Viruses have gotten a bad rap,” said Ken Cadwell, an immunologist at New York University School of Medicine. “They don’t always cause disease.” Dr. Cadwell stumbled by accident onto the first clues about the healing power of viruses. At the time, he was studying the microbiome, the community of 100 trillion microbes living in our bodies. Scientists have long known that the microbiome is important to our health.
Kristine Wylie, a research instructor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine who was not involved in the research, speculated that in real life, certain viruses might be important partners with the microbiome. “It isn’t hard to imagine that the viral exposures we get as children are important to our development,” she said.