Background: The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was undertaken with the goal of defining microbial communities in and on the bodies of healthy individuals using high-throughput, metagenomic sequencing analysis. The viruses present in these microbial communities, the 'human virome', are an important aspect of the human microbiome that is particularly understudied in the absence of overt disease. We analyzed eukaryotic double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viruses, together with dsDNA replicative intermediates of single-stranded DNA viruses, in metagenomic sequence data generated by the HMP. 706 samples from 102 subjects were studied, with each subject sampled at up to five major body habitats: nose, skin, mouth, vagina, and stool. Fifty-one individuals had samples taken at two or three time points 30 to 359 days apart from at least one of the body habitats.
Results: We detected an average of 5.5 viral genera in each individual. At least 1 virus was detected in 92% of the individuals sampled. These viruses included herpesviruses, papillomaviruses, polyomaviruses, adenoviruses, anelloviruses, parvoviruses, and circoviruses. Each individual had a distinct viral profile, demonstrating the high interpersonal diversity of the virome. Some components of the virome were stable over time.
Conclusions: This study is the first to use high-throughput DNA sequencing to describe the diversity of eukaryotic dsDNA viruses in a large cohort of normal individuals who were sampled at multiple body sites. Our results show that the human virome is a complex component of the microbial flora. Some viruses establish long-term infections that may be associated with increased risk or possibly with protection from disease. A better understanding of the composition and dynamics of the virome may hold important keys to human health.