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Identifying Bacterial Pathogens and Viruses in the Human Intestinal Tract

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 — Poster Session IV

10:00 a.m. –12:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center



* FARE Award Winner


  • DM Kristensen
  • EV Koonin


While some bacteria have an innate ability to cause disease, others are instead recruited as pathogens from commensal populations that exist in the normal, healthy human microbiome. Several examples of conversion of previously benign bacteria to a pathogenic form by bacteriophage-mediated transduction of virulence factors are widely known, including cases involving the diphtheria and Shiga toxins, genes necessary for cholera epidemics, etc. Microbiome studies have yielded many insights into the bacterial populations associated with the human body, but far less is known about viruses in these environments, or more importantly, how they contribute to human diseases. In order to gain a deeper insight into host-viral interactions in the human gut, we are currently developing several tools and approaches that will enable metagenomics studies to identify, quantify, and distinguish between different types of viruses in a sample, which we demonstrate also aids in probing the nature of conversion to pathogenicity. For example, we have identified several signature genes that act as sensitive and precise diagnostic indicators of the presence and quantitative abundance of a given type of virus in a metagenomic sample.

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