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Science

Your Feces Is a Wonderland of Viruses 211

Posted by timothy
from the and-so-can-you dept.
sciencehabit writes "Thanks to an anlaysis of fecal samples from four sets of Missouri-born female identical twins and their mothers, researchers have concluded that human guts harbor viruses as unique as the people they inhabit; the viral lineup differs even between identical twins. Even more surprising? These viruses may be doing good work inside of us."
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Your Feces Is a Wonderland of Viruses

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  • by electricprof (1410233) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:32PM (#32905988)
    Don't I feel special!
  • by Evro (18923) * <evandhoffmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:32PM (#32905996) Homepage Journal

    ... I love that song.

  • by gblackwo (1087063) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:33PM (#32906004) Homepage
    Is Weird Al back in town?
  • Evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dward90 (1813520) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:33PM (#32906012)
    From my understanding of evolution, I think it would be more surprising if something we all have inside of us was doing something bad.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mrsteveman1 (1010381)

      We haven't yet evolved to be smart enough to eat real food, at least most of us haven't.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Reilaos (1544173)

      Well, it's not inside all of us, guessing by the article. It differs between all of us, and besides, people generally think of viruses as bad things. Bacteria, yes, but I can't really think of very useful viruses.

      • What about the man-modified viruses that can reprogram DNA to fix defects? :)

      • Re:Evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

        by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:06PM (#32906514) Journal

        I just read a Scientific American article discussing how plants selectively hold on to certain viruses that benefit them. A researcher inoculated tomato plants with mycorrhiza from plants found growing near very hot springs in Yellowstone. Viruses in the mycorrhiza infected the tomatoes, granting them the ability to grow in temperatures up to 140F. Best of all, the plants passed the beneficial viruses on to their offspring in the seed coating.

      • Isn't there one that makes crocuses (or maybe it's tulips) go all stripy?

      • Well, it's not inside all of us, guessing by the article. It differs between all of us, and besides, people generally think of viruses as bad things. Bacteria, yes, but I can't really think of very useful viruses.

        Bacteriophages can transfer new traits to bacteria, across species (and even across domains) and is a very important means of horizontal gene transfer. Sure, this may not be "useful" to us, who so often have to combat these new traits such as the various antibiotic resistances that arise, but it is certainly useful to the bacteria. Even in the article, they suggested that the helpfulness of these gut viruses is to the bacteria rather than directly to the human.

        For people who study microbiology and especiall

      • Viruses that infect harmful bacteria. If bacteria can co-evolve to help us, why shouldn't viruses?

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:43PM (#32906142) Journal

      From my understanding of evolution, I think its surprising that we'd put the central waste facility right next to the playground and manufacturing plant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sznupi (719324)

      So you haven't ever heard about parasites or, more generally, infections of all kind? Sure, it's a matter of finding a balance for bost host and "attackers" to survive, but it doesn't mean the latter "doing something bad inside of us" aren't present (of course together with those which are pretty much neutral (but good but taking resources from "bad") or outright "good")

      • by dward90 (1813520)
        Parasites exist, but parasites aren't present in every individual of a host species.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mldi (1598123)
        Actually, our rapid development into sterile societies has backfired because of how we're wired due to evolution. At least that's the theory. Our bodies were built to battle a few parasites, at least in our youth, and the theory is that because we are so sterile anymore, our bodies are looking for something to attack... and since in modern countries the majority of the population is parasite-free, they attack us instead. Behold: autoimmune diseases!

        It's actually probably pretty good for us to get at leas
    • From a basic understanding of creation,
      something that's in all of us must have
      originally been meant to benefit us

  • by LoudMusic (199347) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:34PM (#32906022)

    One of the greatest episodes of any show ever.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRvk-CnXYhI [youtube.com]

  • FecesBook (Score:3, Funny)

    by donstenk (74880) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:35PM (#32906032)

    Why did I think the post was related to FaceBook?

  • I wonder if any of those viruses is a key "log"-ger. Better that than a worm, I guess.

    I'll show myself out...
  • by sznupi (719324) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:40PM (#32906100) Homepage

    It was already established, IIRC, how the number of bacterial cells in our bodies is greater than "human" ones; now this. "Human" genetic material (what this is all about in the end) seems to be in a minority inside us - though with such viruses it might be much less clear, perhaps they are a much more integral part of us; could pass RNA between cells, for example.

    So...I, for one, welcome our viral overlords. I welcome us.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Luckyo (1726890)

      Could you please source this one? I'm no biologist, but I'm fairly certain that most of the human mass, and cell count is still that of human. You may be referring to our gastrointestinal tract, where indeed the human cells are just the superstructure and enzyme-generating tissue and various absorbing surfaces, and much of the actual work breaking down the food is done by bacterial cells that are non-human. Elsewhere however, I just don't see that being possible, seeing just how aggressive our immune system

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sznupi (719324)

        Mass != number of cells. Bacterial ones are typically quite a bit smaller.

        Yes, most in gut, but not all - if our immune system was so efficient as you paint it to be, there wouldn't be much infectious diseases to speak of (BTW, up to 1/3rd of world population has just one [wikipedia.org] brain parasite)

      • by vlm (69642)

        Could you please source this one? I'm no biologist, but I'm fairly certain that most of the human mass, and cell count is still that of human.

        I'm not a biologist but I own a microscope and know how to use it.

        Mass, yes, we win. Count, possibly not. Very crude rule of thumb is prokaryote (bacteria and friends) cell diameter is "about" a tenth or less than that of eukaryotes (us, assuming you're not a sentient bacterium).

        In a typical microscope bacteria at like dots compared to animal cells. I'm sure some goof can reply with the worlds biggest bacteria cell and the worlds tiniest animal cell, just to make it clear I'm talking about 99% of the res

      • by mdielmann (514750) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:14PM (#32906622) Homepage Journal

        We comprise about 1% by weight of bacteria. Given the small size of bacteria cells, we have 10 times the bacterial cells to "human" cells. Here's [sciencedaily.com] where you can start reading.
        And then there's mitochondria, which look a lot more like foreign microbes within our own cells than just a structure built by our cell, complete with their own DNA.
        It is correct that much of those bacteria live in your gut, but apparently skin has its fair share, too. Nonetheless, those gut bacteria are also vital to the proper function of your body.

        • by sznupi (719324)

          I'd say that skin ones (etc.; generally those which just sit there & take care of themselves, without giving anything obvious in return) are also vital - they compete for their niche with those who are not so benign, helping to keep the latter in check.

        • by shermo (1284310)

          And then there's mitochondria, which look a lot more like foreign microbes within our own cells than just a structure built by our cell, complete with their own DNA.

          You know, George Lucas really ruined the whole series for me when he explained them.

    • By volume about 7% bacteria and 0.5% viruses.
    • According to Nick Lane's mitochondria book [amazon.com] there are 20 times more mitochondria than human cells in order bodies. And they supply 90% of our metabolic energy. Multicellular animals could not move without them. I instantly though of Star War's mediclodrians mediating The Force.
  • anlaysis ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mathinker (909784) * on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:43PM (#32906134) Journal

    Geez, the Slashdot editors couldn't even spell "anal" when it was even on-topic.

  • Imagine this being said in a Hugh Bliss voice.

  • This thing about bacteria using viruses to transport and exchange genetic material makes me wonder if sexual reproduction could have evolved from here. Are there any theories about this...

    ???

    • Sexual reproduction, in the way it exists with gametes and sexes, most likely owes nothing or at least very little to something like this. It seems like it might when one considers that the male gamete is basically a DNA package with a motor attached. However, it is more sensible for evolution of sex to have started with two possibly equal sized gametes, both providing DNA, nutrients, etc (basically everything that the egg now provides). A situation with such equality is unstable, however, so it would soon

  • by OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:46PM (#32906184)

    Humans are born with all these bacteria built into the body and advances as we grew up; on the other hand young elephant have to eat their parents feces in order to gain these valuable bacteria to help them have an immune system and digest food.

    So aren't you glad you're not an elephant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sznupi (719324)

      Not strictly "born with all these built in" - remember that those who are born naturally have quite prolonged contact of their mouths with mother's vagina/etc., for starters. And IIRC those after caesarean section can show some "irregularities" in bacterial flora.

      I even have an impression that dietary preferences might change in some real way, not just by habit & accustomization, after regular close contact with people from slightly different areas...

    • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:01PM (#32906414) Homepage

      Actually, humans spend the nine months in utero in a completely bacteria-free environment. However, babies born vaginally pick up their first dose of bacteria immediately as they emerge from their mother's birth canal, and even babies born via Caeserian section are bacteria magnets. The natural birth babies generally get a big dose of lactobacillus, while C-section babies tend to pick up strains found on the skin and the general hospital environment. Or so they say. [sciencenews.org] But the bacteria are hardly "built into the body," which is why identical twins will have different gut flora.

      Still, you may notice that TFA is about viruses, not bacteria.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:12PM (#32906582)

      I am an ICU nurse and was shocked the first time the doctor ordered a "fecal transplant." This is for someone who has been on so many antibiotics that they have depleted the bacteria in their gut. Feces is collected from family members, processed, and "transplanted" to the patient via a feeding tube. It is not common or palatable but effective.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:21PM (#32906736)

      Humans are born with all these bacteria built into the body and advances as we grew up; on the other hand young elephant have to eat their parents feces in order to gain these valuable bacteria to help them have an immune system and digest food.

      So aren't you glad you're not an elephant.

      As a microbiologist in studying the gut microbiota, I can tell you that this is 100% wrong, no-one is born with bacteria built into them, in fact gnotobiotic animals, ones completely free of all bacteria and viruses are (somewhat easily) made by C-section in a sterile environment for the purposes of gut and nutrition research all the time. These animals are difficult to maintain, however, because they essentially must live like the "boy in the bubble" all their food and water, as well as all the tools used for their examination must be sterilized ( food is typically irradiated up to 5 times to make sure all the stuff in it is dead) to keep them from being contaminated, and facilities that maintain these animals must be built specifically for this task - which is not exactly cheap. *** As an aside, please keep in mind that even ignoring the subject of virii transferring DNA within the bacterial soup, some scientists estimate that to date we have sequenced and discovered less than 1% of all the bacterial species in the human gut even with massive throughput technologies like pyrosequencing. *** Also keep in mind that at the moment, we (scientists) still have not come to a consensus about what a unique bacterial (or viral, if they are even alive) species is! In other words, while nicely defined terms work for the rest of the living stuff on this planet, ( if you can produce viable offspring with another organism, then you are the same species) this does not apply to bacteria or viruses because they reproduce asexually. All we have to go on as far as classification is the DNA sequences of all these microorganisms, and how similar those sequences are to others - so where does one draw the line and say "this is a new species" ? At >3% difference? at >1% , or something else? People can't agree on this because what ends up happening is you end up finding two bacteria that are 99% identical but behave completely differently, while another pair of two supposedly different species are functionally/metabolically indistinguishable. *** Oh and to shed some light on the deal with identical twins: basically everyone is right, diet, location, lifestyle (smoking/ drinking vs. not, working in a sewer, etc.) AND host genetics all play important roles in what bacteria end up permanently colonizing a persons intestine. To elaborate, two identical twins separated at birth, eating different things will still be more similar to each other than would a pair of two complete strangers. If these twins lived in the same house and had similar diets, they would be even MORE similar than if they were separated, but never identical. At the same time, a pair of complete strangers living in the same house and eating the same things would be more similar than if they lived separately and had different diets. **** Fun fact: twins also have different fingerprints

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by priegog (1291820)

      Yeah, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but as a couple of people already pointed out, we actually do get our colonic flora from our mothers' (most of the time) poo (or perineal region, which is essentially the same thing). Of course all throughout our lives it gets modified by our own immune system makeup, eating habits, antibiotic use, etc... But the bacteria that protect us on those first few days/weeks/months come DIRECTLY out of our moms' butts.

  • by stevegee58 (1179505) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:47PM (#32906198) Journal
    Now my illusion is shattered. *sniff*
    • by inKubus (199753)

      Here's what I saw when I read your post:

      "But I thought girls didn't poop. Now my illusion is shattered."

      Stevegee58 grasped the shiny brown log in his fist and the slowly raised it under his nose.

      *sniff*

    • by mrsurb (1484303)
      A firm, shapely, feminine butt is a beautiful thing... until you remember what it does.
  • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:47PM (#32906200) Journal

    The article mentions the identical twins but it does not indicate if they are adult, identical twins living in different places, with different environmental conditions. If you took two 25 year old identical twins and raised one in Florida and the other in Seattle for five years you would definitely find different flora in the gut.

    Now if these identical twins were still children, raised in the same environment, then that would indeed be interesting.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Now if these identical twins were still children, raised in the same environment, then that would indeed be interesting.

      Yeah that would be interesting, like winning the lotto unlikely interesting. My wife and I eat McDonalds breakfast, same stuff. One of us spends the next 12 hours on the can due to salmonella. Repeat for a lifetime of experiences at Taco Bell, street vendors, etc.

      That's before considering we both dig up the garden but only one of us gets an infected scratch.

      And we never seem to catch cold/flu whatever at the same exact time. One catches it from the other, but never in the same order.

  • by Khyber (864651)

    Just a couple days ago I read about people getting FECAL TRANSPLANTS to cure intestinal problems, now this.

    Looks like the solutions to many of life's problems lies in the asshole.

  • by Itninja (937614)
    I think this will drastically change the dialog in future episodes of CSI.

    "You can suck it CSI guy! You can't prove nothin'"
    "Mr. Jones, there's no need to deny being at the crime scene. Your poop was all over the murder weapon"
  • by fuo (941897) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @04:50PM (#32906254)

    fecal samples from four sets of Missouri-born female identical twins and their mothers

    Impossible. It's common knowledge that girls don't pewp.

  • by shentino (1139071)

    No SHIT sherlock...

    • I must admit that at first this seemed incredibly obvious, so I thought "no shit!"

      But then I started reading TFA and found it was really quite surprising. So now I'm thinking "no shit?"

      I have to credit Dr. Gordon for researching the shit out of what seems on its face a shitty subject. He's really the shit in my book.

      (And now I must apologize to the non-native English speakers.)

  • by SnarfQuest (469614) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:01PM (#32906424)

    What fun the children of these scientists must have.

    What does your daddy do? He plays with shit.

    What did you do on your "take your son to work" day? We got people to poop for us.

    What did you bring for show and tell? Here's some poop in the shape of Obama.

  • Researchers (Score:4, Funny)

    by kpainter (901021) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:03PM (#32906452)
    Man, talk about a shit job! Also, why is it particularly relevant that the subjects were born in Missouri? Just to make Mississippi jealous?
  • by Hognoxious (631665)

    My feces am plural, you insensitive clod!

  • I for one, welcome our microbial overlords. We are walking colonies of our single celled ancestors. Nothing new, but most people don't realize there are ten times more cells living in your gut than there are in the rest of your body (due to bacteria being much smaller than many cells in our bodies, in particular fat cells are enormous). A sobering reminder of who really rules the planet.

    I can't think how much new research keeps popping up about the role gut flora plays in health and disease. But one has
  • Women shit?

    then again

    what are women?

  • Best... (Score:4, Funny)

    by N0Man74 (1620447) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @05:21PM (#32906720)

    Best Pickup Line... Ever!

  • Twice in my life, something besides antibiotics has killed my gut bacteria.

    The first time it took me 8 weeks to realize. Basically felt terrible, real trouble digesting food, etc. etc.
    Finally bought acidopholis pills from whole foods (yellow bottle, purple bottle: about $20).
    One of the pills (2 billion germs) each and I was cured the next morning.

    Next time took about 2 weeks to figure out- had the same result.

    Antibiotics do this too and if no good stuff is present, bad stuff will move in.

    Over time, you dev

  • Maybe one of these viruses will make us live forever. And grow huge teeth!

    I am Babcock.
  • I mean,really :)
  • I'll ponder this next time I'm bareback.

    Pass the Kefir.

  • sh1t?

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