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Viruses in Shit and Sewage

The 4-letter “S” word (shit), there I said it…

More correctly, it’s known as feces (to Americans) or faeces to those who still know and understand our Greek heritage!

In fact collective sh*t (oops, said it again), or raw sewage, is home to the most diverse collection of viruses ever documented. Literally thousands have been discovered, some of which could be a threat to human health, according to a new study published in mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

All told, we have learned to recognize around 3,000 distinct viruses worldwide. According to this study, published online Oct 4th, 2011, researchers found the genetic signature of 234 of these known viruses present in raw sewage in North America, Europe and Africa. That’s a hefty percentage of the recognized total.

This total includes known human pathogens, such as human papillomavirus, which can cause genital warts and cervical cancer, and norovirus, which causes stomach flu.

There were also viruses associated with rodents and cockroaches, viruses from plants and viruses that prey on bacteria. Not all bad, that’s for sure.

But fascinatingly, most of the genetic signatures belonged to as-yet undiscovered viruses, many of which play unknown roles in human health and environmental processes.

This focuses yet again on the emergence in recent years of the vast scale of the human microbiome: the collection of genes from microbes present in and on our bodies, which outnumber our own genes by 150:1.

You’ll learn more about the human microbiome when my new book “Fire In The Belly” is finally brought forth!

The post Viruses in Shit and Sewage appeared first on Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby.

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