Chinese scientists verify correlation between phages and diabetes

Updated 2018-02-14 13:19:03 Xinhua

Chinese scientists have verified the correlation between gut bacteriophage and Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) for the first time, according to a paper recently published in the academic journal Microbiome.

As a kind of virus, bacteriophages are common and diverse in the biosphere. They infect and replicate within bacteria, whose relation with the latter is normally seen as like hunter and the hunted.

An enormous number and variety of phages exist in the human gut. They play an important role in shaping the structure of the bacterial community in the gut, which is related to many complex human diseases.

However, although alterations in the gut bacterial community have long been associated with T2D, the role of gut phages has long been neglected.

To fill the gap, scientists from the Center for Synthetic Biology Engineering Research (CSynBER), affiliated with the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT), cataloged gut phages and conducted comparative analysis, based on the genetic sequencing data of fecal samples collected from both T2D patients and normal adults.

"Interestingly, we observed a significant increase in the number of gut phages in the T2D group," said Ma Yingfei, researcher with CSynBER and the first author of the paper.

"After analyzing the genome sequence of the phages, or phageome in short, we found that phages carry a lot of functional genes, which help bacteria to better adapt to the gut ecosystem," Ma said.

"As the first study to identify a T2D-specific gut phageome, it indicates that gut phages to some extent are 'good friends' of bacteria, rather than 'predators' of them, as people normally imagined," Ma said. "Hosts, phages and bacteria affect each other in pairs, which contribute to the alterations in the human body, such as the occurrence of diseases."

The study will help researchers synthesize or transform gut phages, which might be used to prevent or treat certain diseases by intervening in gut bacteria in the future.

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