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Methods and Protocols

Studying the genetics of the viruses in these communities is challenging.

Unveiling viral–host interactions within the ‘microbial dark matter’

Also, many of the fragments of viral genomes that have been identified have not yet been linked to their host microbes. Many viruses integrate their genome into the DNA of their host cell, and there are computational tools available that exploit this ability to identify viruses and link them to their host. However, other viruses can live and multiply inside cells without integrating their genome into the host's DNA. Earlier in , researchers developed a new computational tool called VirSorter that can predict virus genome sequences within the DNA extracted from microbes.

Now, Roux et al. The study identifies over 12, viral genomes and links them to their microbial hosts. These data increase the number of viral genome sequences that are publically available by a factor of ten and identify the first viruses associated with 13 new types of bacteria, which include species that are abundant in particular environments. It is possible for several different viruses to infect a single cell at the same time. Some viruses are known to be able to exchange DNA, and if this happens frequently in other viruses, it could have a big impact on how viruses evolve.

Roux et al. These new viral genomes will serve as a useful resource for researchers as they explore the communities of viruses and microbes in natural environments, the human body and in industrial processes.