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Humans are colonized by many uncharacterized and highly divergent microbes

By Mark Kowarsky, Joan Camunas, Michael Kertesz, Iwijn De Vlaminck, Winston Koh, Wenying Pan, Lance Martin, Norma Neff, Jennifer Okamoto, Ron Wong, Sandhya Kharbanda, Yasser El-Sayed, Yair Blumenfeld, David K. Stevenson, Gary Shaw, Nathan D Wolfe, Stephen R. Quake

Posted 04 Mar 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/113746 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1707009114)

Blood circulates throughout the entire body and contains molecules drawn from virtually every tissue, including the microbes and viruses which colonize the body. Through massive shotgun sequencing of circulating cell-free DNA from the blood, we identified hundreds of new bacteria and viruses which represent previously unidentified members of the human microbiome. Analysing cumulative sequence data from 1,351 blood samples collected from 188 patients enabled us to assemble 7,190 contiguous regions (contigs) larger than 1 kbp, of which 3,761 are novel with little or no sequence homology in any existing databases. The vast majority of these novel contigs possess coding sequences, and we have validated their existence both by finding their presence in independent experiments and by performing direct PCR amplification. When their nearest neighbors are located in the tree of life, many of the organisms represent entirely novel taxa, showing that microbial diversity within the human body is substantially broader than previously appreciated.

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