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A twin study reveals that children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) have a less diverse and more immature gut virome than is found in healthy children, according to a report from researchers from the United States, Colombia, and Malawi (Reyes A et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. doi:10.1073/pnas.1514285112 [published online September 8, 2015]).
Prior studies have indicated that development of the bacterial community in the gut is perturbed in children with SAM compared with those without SAM, resulting in an immature gut microbiome that cannot be repaired with ready-to-use therapeutic food interventions. Less is known about the role of gut viruses in childhood malnutrition.
To further characterize the development of the gut microbial community in healthy vs malnourished children, the investigators characterized the viromes in 20 Malawian twin pairs. The team used a metagenomic sequencing approach to analyze DNA viruses from fecal samples over time from 8 pairs of twins in which both were healthy and 12 pairs in which 1 twin was healthy and the other malnourished (discordant twin pairs).
The team found that certain members of viruses from the Anelloviridae and Circoviridae families could distinguish the healthy twin pairs from the discordant twin pairs.
In addition, the researchers discovered that development of the virome is impaired in both healthy and malnourished siblings in discordant twin pairs, suggesting these changes in the virome may indicate a familial risk for malnutrition.