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Virome Mystery

Not only is the human body covered inside and out with bacteria, it is also home to a large number of viruses. "But, truth be told, a lot of viruses we harbor don't make us sick. They may even make us healthy. You'd think they'd be worth getting to know. But they're mostly a mystery to us," writes Carl Zimmer at The Loom. He notes, though, that researchers are beginning to try to solve that mystery.

Forest Rohwer from San Diego State University is starting to get a glimpse of the human virome, writes Sarah Williams in a news piece in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Rohwer has, she writes, examined the virome of cystic fibrosis patients' lungs, and he says that the viruses present there could influence disease severity.

Study the virome, though, poses a technical issue, Williams adds. To study the bacterial component of the microbiome, researchers often turn to 16S rRNA, but viruses don't have that or even something equivalent to that, she writes. Instead, researchers are using shotgun sequencing or a viral purification approach followed by sequencing.

"We don't know how much we're missing right now," Rohwer tells her, "but we know that every time we change techniques, we find new viruses."