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Bacteria have long been the star of microbiome research. But the human gut is not a monolithic place. The human microbiome includes bacteria, certainly, but also viruses — lots and lots of viruses, many of them benign.

And a new paper published Wednesday in Nature shows just how quickly viruses colonize a person’s “virome.” Within months of birth, an infant’s gut has already been colonized by two waves of viruses — some of which are linked to the common cold and noroviruses.


As with adult microbiomes, the types of viruses that exist in a baby’s gut might be linked to their diet, the paper found. Material from potentially infectious viruses was found significantly less often among children who were only given breast milk than children whose diets included formula, researchers found. The research was completed by 2019, before the novel coronavirus is thought to have crossed into humans, and did not examine that virus strain.

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