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A Gut Virus That Lives In Half The World's Population

Update Date: Jul 24, 2014 12:08 PM EDT

Researchers have discovered a virus that is extremely widespread and could play a major role in obesity and diabetes.

In a new study, researchers described the virus, named crAssphage, which infects one of the most common types of gut bacteria, Bacteroidetes.

Researchers believe that the phylum of bacteria might be associated to obesity, diabetes and other gut-related diseases.

Researchers stumbled upon the discovery quite by accident while they were using results from previous studies on gut-inhabiting viruses to screen new viruses.

“So we have a biological proof that the virus they found with the computer actually exists in the samples," said SDSU virologist John Mokili in the press release.

“It’s not unusual to go looking for a novel virus and find one," added Robert A. Edwards, a bioinformatics professor at SDSU. “But it’s very unusual to find one that so many people have in common. The fact that it’s flown under the radar for so long is very strange.”

The presence of virus in half the world's population further indicates that it probably is not a particularly young virus, either.

“We’ve basically found it in every population we’ve looked at,” Edwards said. “As far as we can tell, it’s as old as humans are.”

According to researchers the virus might also be used to prevent or mitigate other diseases affected by the gut such as diabetes and gastroenterological maladies.

“This could be a key to personalized phage medicine,” Edward said. “In individuals, we could isolate your particular strain of the virus, manipulate it to target harmful bacteria, then give it back to you.”

The research has been published in Nature Communications.

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