Prophages in Humans
Phages integrated into a bacterial genome–called prophages–continuously monitor the health of the host bacteria to determine when to escape the genome, protect their host from other phage infections, and may provide genes that promote bacterial growth. Prophages are essential to almost all microbiomes, including the human microbiome. However, most human microbiome studies focus on bacteria, ignoring free and integrated phages, so we know little about how these prophages affect the human microbiome. We compared the prophages identified in 11,513 bacterial genomes isolated from human body sites to characterise prophage DNA in the human microbiome. Here, we show that prophage DNA comprised an average of 1-5% of each bacterial genome. The prophage content per genome varies with the isolation site on the human body, the health of the human, and whether the disease was symptomatic. The presence of prophages may potentially promote bacterial growth, altering the balance of species in the microbiome. However, the disparities caused by prophages vary throughout the body.