Viruses in the Human Gut Respond Drastically to Change in Diet

Researchers find that viruses in the human digestive system respond drastically to changes in diet.

The gut microbiome is a fragile ecosystem where bacteria and viruses intermingle with the human host, ultimately affecting the host’s health. The results from a study published in Genome Research found that viruses in the human digestive system respond drastically to changes in diet.

"Our bodies are like coral reefs, inhabited by many diverse creatures interacting with each other and with us," reported senior author Frederic Bushman, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Lead authors Sam Minot and Bushman worked with colleagues in order to assess the dynamics of the gut virome as alterations to diet took place by evaluating six healthy volunteers who either consumed a high-fat, low-fiber diet or a low-fat, high-fiber diet; there was one participant who was on an ad-lib diet. Over the course of eight days, the researchers analyzed DNA sequences from viruses and bacteria present in stool samples from the volunteers.

Upon reviewing the data, the researchers concluded that, while the most significant changes in virus diversity took place in certain individuals, changes in diet overall altered the scope of virus populations in participants on the same diet, eventually resulting in the viral populations becoming more alike.

"The study provides a new window on the vast viral populations that live in the human gut, demonstrates that they vary radically between individuals, and shows that dietary changes can affect not just bacterial populations but also viral populations,” reported Bushman.