(NPR) Scientists at San Diego State University have discovered what may be the most common and abundant virus in the human gut. And yet, the tiny critter, called crAssphage (oh yes, there's a story behind that name), has eluded researchers' radar for decades.
Here's the cool part: The virus doesn't just hang out in our intestines naked and alone, scientists report… Instead, the virus takes up residence inside gut bacteria — specifically inside Bacteroides, a group of microbes that have been linked to obesity and diabetes.
So the system is almost like a Russian nesting doll: The virus lives inside the bacterium, which lives inside our gut.
The new virus doesn't make us sick, but it may be involved in controlling weight through its effect on Bacteroides. "We suspect this virus is very important in regulating the number of these bacteria [the Bacteroides] in the intestine," says computational biologist Robert Edwards, who led the study.[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]