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Tiny helpers - billions of phages colonize human bodies


Viruses specializing in bacteria leave the intestine and migrate to all regions of the body

There are innumerable viruses in the human body that specialize in bacteria, which are also known as phages. These phages can easily migrate from the intestine into the blood and other organs. Researchers have now found that around 30 billion phages migrate from the intestine into our bodies every day and are likely to provide us with useful health services.

In their investigation, the scientists at San Diego State University found that so-called phages are able to cross the cells of epithelial layers. In this way, they can get from our intestines into human tissue and have positive effects on health. The experts published the results of their study in the "mBio" journal.

Phages are useful organisms

Tiny organisms abound on and in the human body. These live, for example, in our intestines, in our noses and on our skin. These organisms are often useful and support human health. Bacteria, amoebas and fungi are examples of these subtenants. But billions of phages are also useful organisms, the doctors report on their current research results. Such phages specialize in bacteria.

Researchers clarify important questions about phages

Phages are among the most numerous organisms on our planet, say the experts. Actually phages occur almost everywhere. They can be found in the water of the oceans, in the ground, on and in the human body. In the human body, the phages occur, for example, in the blood, in human lymph fluid and in various other organs, the scientists explain. So far, however, it was still unclear how the so-called phages got there. It was also unknown how many phages occur on a human being. The scientists at San Diego State University have now tried to clarify these ambiguities in their study. The experts were able to determine that phages occur particularly often in layers of mucus to protect our intestinal wall. The doctors asked themselves whether the phages can migrate through this mucus and thus penetrate from the intestine into other areas of the body.

Any virus can cross the epithelial layer in a few minutes

To verify this, the researchers carried out a series of experiments with human epithelial cells. These epithelial cells form a protective layer around all inner and outer body surfaces. For example, they also cover people's intestines and lungs. The scientists found that the cells of these boundary layers continuously take up phages. The phages are then transported to the other side. So far, however, it is still unclear exactly how this transport mechanism works, explains researcher Sophie Nguyen from San Diego State University. In their current study, however, the scientists were able to demonstrate that every virus can cross the epithelial layer in just a few minutes.

30 billion phages migrate from the intestine into the body every day

The research results show that an estimated 30 billion phages per day migrate into the body from the gut of an average person, the researchers report. There they are distributed in the blood, lymph and various other organs.

How do viruses affect human health?

The previous assumption that phages do not interact with eukaryotic cells appears to have been proven wrong, according to co-study author Jeremy Barr. The viruses appear to be useful to our bodies and, for example, have a positive effect on the human immune system. Other studies also point to such relationships. However, it will still be some time before the doctors fully understand the exact effects of these viruses on human health. (as)

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