Going viral: next-generation sequencing applied to phage populations in the human gut

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2012 Sep;10(9):607-17. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2853. Epub 2012 Aug 6.


Over the past decade, researchers have begun to characterize viral diversity using metagenomic methods. These studies have shown that viruses, the majority of which infect bacteria, are probably the most genetically diverse components of the biosphere. Here, we briefly review the incipient rise of a phage biology renaissance, which has been catalysed by advances in next-generation sequencing. We explore how work characterizing phage diversity and lifestyles in the human gut is changing our view of ourselves as supra-organisms. Finally, we discuss how a renewed appreciation of phage dynamics may yield new applications for phage therapies designed to manipulate the structure and functions of our gut microbiomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / virology*
  • Bacterial Infections / therapy
  • Bacteriophages / classification*
  • Bacteriophages / genetics*
  • Bacteriophages / isolation & purification
  • Biodiversity*
  • Biological Products / therapeutic use
  • Biota*
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / virology*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods*
  • Humans


  • Biological Products