Transmission of viruses via our microbiomes

Microbiome. 2016 Dec 2;4(1):64. doi: 10.1186/s40168-016-0212-z.


Background: Bacteria inhabiting the human body have important roles in a number of physiological processes and are known to be shared amongst genetically-related individuals. Far less is known about viruses inhabiting the human body, but their ecology suggests they may be shared between close contacts.

Results: Here, we report the ecology of viruses in the guts and mouths of a cohort and demonstrate that substantial numbers of gut and oral viruses were shared amongst genetically unrelated, cohabitating individuals. Most of these viruses were bacteriophages, and each individual had distinct oral and gut viral ecology from their housemates despite the fact that some of their bacteriophages were shared. The distribution of bacteriophages over time within households indicated that they were frequently transmitted between the microbiomes of household contacts.

Conclusions: Because bacteriophages may shape human oral and gut bacterial ecology, their transmission to household contacts suggests they could have substantial roles in shaping the microbiota within a household.

Keywords: Antibiotic courses; Antibiotic perturbations; Antibiotics; Bacteriophage; Gut; Microbiome; Microbiota; Saliva; Virome; Virus; Virus transmission.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacteriophages / classification
  • Bacteriophages / isolation & purification*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Feces / virology*
  • Humans
  • Metagenome / drug effects
  • Microbiota
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Saliva / virology*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents