A bacteriophages journey through the human body

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Abstract

The human body is colonized by a diverse collective of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses. The smallest entity of this microbial conglomerate are the bacterial viruses. Bacteriophages, or phages for short, exert significant selective pressure on their bacterial hosts, undoubtedly influencing the human microbiome and its impact on our health and well-being. Phages colonize all niches of the body, including the skin, oral cavity, lungs, gut, and urinary tract. As such our bodies are frequently and continuously exposed to diverse collections of phages. Despite the prevalence of phages throughout our bodies, the extent of their interactions with human cells, organs, and immune system is still largely unknown. Phages physically interact with our mucosal surfaces, are capable of bypassing epithelial cell layers, disseminate throughout the body and may manipulate our immune system. Here, I establish the novel concept of an “intra-body phageome,” which encompasses the collection of phages residing within the classically “sterile” regions of the body. This review will take a phage-centric view of the microbiota, human body, and immune system with the ultimate goal of inspiring a greater appreciation for both the indirect and direct interactions between bacteriophages and their mammalian hosts.

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