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The Role of the Virome in Stress Management and Gut Health: A Look at Recent Studies

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Ayanna Amadi
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The Role of the Virome in Stress Management and Gut Health: A Look at Recent Studies

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The human body is a vast ecosystem, home to a plethora of microorganisms that are integral to our health and wellbeing. Among these, the gut microbiome, comprising bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms, plays a crucial role in maintaining our health. Of these, the virome, which constitutes a significant part of the microbiome, has been gaining increased attention in recent years. Recent studies indicate that the virome, particularly bacteriophages, can have a profound impact on our response to stress and overall gut health.

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The Virome and the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis

A study published in Nature (source) examined the role of the virome in the microbiota-gut-brain axis response to stress. The researchers conducted two experiments involving male mice, with the stress groups subjected to chronic social defeat stress. The faecal virome from the pre-stress faecal collection was used for oral gavage in the FVT stress group. The study incorporated behavioural tests, immune flow cytometry analysis, corticosterone quantification, and inflammatory cytokine analysis. Moreover, shotgun metagenomic sequencing and RNA sequencing were also performed.

The study highlighted the potential benefits of bacteriophage treatment in protecting against stress and emphasized the importance of the virome in promoting gut and brain health. The findings provide insights into the dynamic interplay between phage and host within the microbiota and its potential for stress management.

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Implications of the Virome on Behaviour and Immune Responses

Chronic stress led to behavioural, immune, and bacteriome alterations in mice that were associated with changes in the bacteriophage class Caudoviricetes and unassigned viral taxa. Interestingly, the transfer of the faecal virome protected against stress-associated behaviour sequelae and restored stress-induced changes in select circulating immune cell populations, cytokine release, bacteriome alterations, and gene expression in the amygdala. These findings suggest that the virome plays a role in modulating the microbiota-gut-brain axis during stress, indicating that these viral populations should be considered when designing future microbiome-directed therapies.

Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) and the Gut Microbiome

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In another study published in the Microbiome Journal (source), researchers examined the effects of antiretroviral treatment (ART) on immunity and gut microbiome composition in people living with HIV (PLWH) in rural versus urban Zimbabwe. The researchers noted that even with successful ART, PLWH often have chronic immune activation and elevated inflammation, which has been linked with poor CD4 T cell recovery and the premature onset of HIV-related non-AIDS defining comorbidities.

The study found that gut microbiome composition was the most highly altered in ART experienced PLWH, with reduced alpha diversity and altered composition. It also suggested a significant role for the gut microbiome in disease progression in uncontrolled infection. Interestingly, the study found differences in the immune response following virologic control in rural versus urban areas, with successful ART being less effective at reducing gut microbiome-associated inflammation and T cell activation in PLWH in rural versus urban Zimbabwe.

In conclusion, these studies underscore the importance of the virome in stress management and gut health. Understanding the interplay between the virome, microbiome, and the host can pave the way for new therapeutic strategies for various health conditions, including stress-related disorders and infectious diseases. However, further research is needed to fully elucidate the role of the virome in human health and disease.

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