Effects of Long Term Antibiotic Therapy on Human Oral and Fecal Viromes

PLoS One. 2015 Aug 26;10(8):e0134941. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0134941. eCollection 2015.


Viruses are integral members of the human microbiome. Many of the viruses comprising the human virome have been identified as bacteriophage, and little is known about how they respond to perturbations within the human ecosystem. The intimate association of phage with their cellular hosts suggests their communities may change in response to shifts in bacterial community membership. Alterations to human bacterial biota can result in human disease including a reduction in the host's resilience to pathogens. Here we report the ecology of oral and fecal viral communities and their responses to long-term antibiotic therapy in a cohort of human subjects. We found significant differences between the viral communities of each body site with a more heterogeneous fecal virus community compared with viruses in saliva. We measured the relative diversity of viruses, and found that the oral viromes were significantly more diverse than fecal viromes. There were characteristic changes in the membership of oral and fecal bacterial communities in response to antibiotics, but changes in fecal viral communities were less distinguishing. In the oral cavity, an abundance of papillomaviruses found in subjects on antibiotics suggests an association between antibiotics and papillomavirus production. Despite the abundance of papillomaviruses identified, in neither the oral nor the fecal viromes did antibiotic therapy have any significant impact upon overall viral diversity. There was, however, an apparent expansion of the reservoir of genes putatively involved in resistance to numerous classes of antibiotics in fecal viromes that was not paralleled in oral viromes. The emergence of antibiotic resistance in fecal viromes in response to long-term antibiotic therapy in humans suggests that viruses play an important role in the resilience of human microbial communities to antibiotic disturbances.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Biodiversity
  • Drug Resistance / genetics
  • Feces / virology*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / virology
  • Microbiota / drug effects*
  • Mouth / drug effects*
  • Mouth / virology*
  • Saliva / drug effects
  • Saliva / virology
  • Time Factors
  • Viruses / drug effects*
  • Viruses / genetics


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents

Grants and funding

This study was supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund 1007681.01 to DTP.