Here a virus, there a virus, everywhere the same virus?

Trends Microbiol. 2005 Jun;13(6):278-84. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2005.04.003.


There are an estimated 10(31) viruses on Earth, most of which are phages that infect bacteria. Metagenomic analyses have shown that environmental viral communities are incredibly diverse. There are an estimated 5000 viral genotypes in 200 liters of seawater and possibly a million different viral genotypes in one kilogram of marine sediment. By contrast, some culturing and molecular studies have found that viruses move between different biomes. Together, these findings suggest that viral diversity could be high on a local scale but relatively limited globally. Also, by moving between environments, viruses can facilitate horizontal gene transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / genetics
  • Bacteriophages / physiology
  • Biodiversity*
  • Gene Transfer, Horizontal
  • Genes, Viral
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Virus Physiological Phenomena*
  • Viruses / genetics*