Nav: Home

Nonpathogenic viruses transferred during fecal transplants

March 29, 2016

Washington, DC - March 29, 2016 - Communities of viruses can be transferred during fecal transplants, according to a study published this week in mBio, an online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. Fortunately for patients who use this procedure, the viruses found to be transmitted in this study appear to be harmless to humans.

Fecal transplants are widely used for treating refractory Clostridium difficile infection, offering more than a 90% cure rate. The procedure is being tried for other gastrointestinal ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. During a fecal transplant, stool collected from a donor who has a healthy gastrointestinal tract is mixed with a solution (often saline), and then placed by colonoscopy, endoscopy, sigmoidsocopy, or enema into a patient with a gastrointestinal ailment. This transfers potentially "good" bacteria into a patient. Similar to blood donations, the donating candidate is tested for high-risk viruses such as HIV.

"Fecal transplants are widely used in medicine now and they work, but you might ask what viruses are moved along with the desirable bacteria?" said principal investigator of the new study, Frederic Bushman, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. "The donors are screened very extensively for GI diseases and other infectious diseases, however you worry about the unknown unknowns, infectious agents that might be bad, but not screened for."

In the new study, the researchers analyzed the fecal transplants from a single, healthy donor to three children with chronic ulcerative colitis. The children received intensive treatment, a course of 22 to 30 transplants. The researchers purified viral particles from the poop of the donor and the recipients and conducted deep genomic sequencing to determine whether any viruses were transferred.

"We could see bacterial viruses moving between humans and we were able to learn some things about transmission, but we did not see any viruses that grow on animal cells that may be of concern for infecting and harming patients," said Dr. Bushman. "We saw mostly temperate bacteriophages."

A temperate virus does not always cause immediate lysis following entry to a host, but can adopt a latent state, replicating its genome along with the host's genome after integration. These latent viruses can induce during times of stress, burst the cell, and liberate new viral particles into the environment. Some temperate bacteriophages can be of medical concern, such as ones that carry toxin genes or contribute to antibiotic resistance, but they are much less of a concern than animal cell viruses.

Temperate phages appeared to be transferred preferentially during fecal transplants. "We speculate that the temperate replication style exists, in part, to promote virus dispersal, to allow viruses to reach new environments where they can flourish," said Dr. Bushman.
The full study can be read online at:

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 47,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.

American Society for Microbiology

Related Bacteria Articles:

Conducting shell for bacteria
Under anaerobic conditions, certain bacteria can produce electricity. This behavior can be exploited in microbial fuel cells, with a special focus on wastewater treatment schemes.
Controlling bacteria's necessary evil
Until now, scientists have only had a murky understanding of how these relationships arise.
Bacteria take a deadly risk to survive
Bacteria need mutations -- changes in their DNA code -- to survive under difficult circumstances.
How bacteria hunt other bacteria
A bacterial species that hunts other bacteria has attracted interest as a potential antibiotic, but exactly how this predator tracks down its prey has not been clear.
Chlamydia: How bacteria take over control
To survive in human cells, chlamydiae have a lot of tricks in store.
Stress may protect -- at least in bacteria
Antibiotics harm bacteria and stress them. Trimethoprim, an antibiotic, inhibits the growth of the bacterium Escherichia coli and induces a stress response.
'Pulling' bacteria out of blood
Magnets instead of antibiotics could provide a possible new treatment method for blood infection.
New findings detail how beneficial bacteria in the nose suppress pathogenic bacteria
Staphylococcus aureus is a common colonizer of the human body.
Understanding your bacteria
New insight into bacterial cell division could lead to advancements in the fight against harmful bacteria.
Bacteria are individualists
Cells respond differently to lack of nutrients.

Related Bacteria Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...