A newly discovered virus has been found to live in half the world’s population, according to a new study. Although it is not exactly clear as to what the virus does, research is being conducted that homes to determine if it is beneficial to humans or detrimental.
Researcher Robert Edwards, a bioinformatics professor at San Diego State University, is one of the researchers who first worked to study this ubiquitous virus. His research group first discovered the virus after analyzing DNA from fecal samples of a small population. They found that there was a cluster of viral DNA that all of the samples had in common. Curious about these findings, they looked for this viral DNA in preexisting genome databases, from people all around the world. They discovered something surprising. 75% of the human feces documented contained the same viral DNA. After realizing that the database contained duplicate DNA, the researchers estimated that about 50% of the world’s population have this virus.
This new virus, named crAssphage, is a bacteriophage. It’s been proposed that this bacteriophage infects a common gut bacteria found in our intestinal tract. Currently, efforts to replicate the virus in the lab have been difficult, preventing imaging and further characterization.
This new finding may help reveal how microbes in the intestine affect human health. However, much more research will be needed to show exactly how the virus interacts with bacteria in the gut, and what that means for human health.