Human oral viruses are personal, persistent and gender-consistent

ISME J. 2014 Sep;8(9):1753-67. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2014.31. Epub 2014 Mar 20.


Viruses are the most abundant members of the human oral microbiome, yet relatively little is known about their biodiversity in humans. To improve our understanding of the DNA viruses that inhabit the human oral cavity, we examined saliva from a cohort of eight unrelated subjects over a 60-day period. Each subject was examined at 11 time points to characterize longitudinal differences in human oral viruses. Our primary goals were to determine whether oral viruses were specific to individuals and whether viral genotypes persisted over time. We found a subset of homologous viral genotypes across all subjects and time points studied, suggesting that certain genotypes may be ubiquitous among healthy human subjects. We also found significant associations between viral genotypes and individual subjects, indicating that viruses are a highly personalized feature of the healthy human oral microbiome. Many of these oral viruses were not transient members of the oral ecosystem, as demonstrated by the persistence of certain viruses throughout the entire 60-day study period. As has previously been demonstrated for bacteria and fungi, membership in the oral viral community was significantly associated with the sex of each subject. Similar characteristics of personalized, sex-specific microflora could not be identified for oral bacterial communities based on 16S rRNA. Our findings that many viruses are stable and individual-specific members of the oral ecosystem suggest that viruses have an important role in the human oral ecosystem.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Biodiversity
  • DNA Viruses / genetics
  • DNA Viruses / isolation & purification*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mouth / microbiology
  • Mouth / virology*
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Saliva / virology
  • Sex Factors

Associated data

  • GENBANK/KF594184
  • GENBANK/KF594185
  • GENBANK/KF594186
  • GENBANK/KF594187
  • GENBANK/KF594188
  • GENBANK/KF594189
  • GENBANK/KF594190
  • GENBANK/KF594191
  • GENBANK/KF594192
  • GENBANK/KF594193
  • GENBANK/KF594194