When intestinal bacteria that are part of the microbiome were first linked to obesity it seemed to be a scientific curiosity. That was in 2007. Now fast forward 14 years and the microbiome has become the subject of hundreds of thousands of research projects around the globe. This research has led to the understanding of how our gut bacteria can influence the development of many human diseases including asthma and allergy. Not to over simplify all this research but it comes down to the fact that our gut bacteria effectively give us a second genome (genetic makeup) and an additional endocrine organ.
Now, the current focus of research is shifting to the viruses that infect bacteria (aka bacteriophages). Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and believe it or not viruses infect bacteria. This fact has actually been known for quite some time. What wasn’t known until just recently is what, if any, impact those bacteriophages might have on human health.
The National Academy of Science recently published novel research in this area. The scientists found over 2000 specific bacteriophages that were strongly associated with human diseases. Two of the diseases most correlated with the viruses were obesity and Parkinson’s disease. What was especially shocking was the finding that many of the viral genetic sequences were integrated into the human chromosomal DNA. This viral research is too new to lead to any practical recommendations but hopefully that will be forthcoming.