Most Skin-Based Viruses are Totally Unknown to Science - Dream Health

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Wednesday 11 November 2015

Most Skin-Based Viruses are Totally Unknown to Science


Microbes Living On & Within Us – Good Health/Cause of Disease

Researchers together with the public are being aware that microbes living on and within us – `micro-biomes’, could be vital in maintenance of good health or the cause of disease. Skin resident bacteria by no means are an exception and they help to ward off dangerous infection as well as maintain good skin immunity together with wound healing but in certain situations could do the reverse.

A new study has observed that a majority of DNA viruses that have been found on human skin has not been described before. With the use of mapping techniques in isolating virus like particles from the skin swabs of 16 healthy participants, the team from the University of Pennsylvania discovered that about 95% of skin resident viruses seem to be uncharacterised, basically `viral dark matter’ wherein the presence is felt though the character seems to be uncertain.

According to Elizabeth A. Grice, senior author, PhD and an assistant professor of Dermatology at Penn Medicine commented that there is a need for better understanding of these viruses, considering their potential effects on the skin cells and the resident bacteria. Till now, comparatively less work has been done in this area in part due to the technical challenges involved.

Features of Viral Genetic Substance

A skin swab for instance, taken for the purpose of analysis would comprise of generally human and bacterial DNA with only a small amount of viral genetic material. Earlier mapping efforts utilised databases of known viral genes to identify some of the viral genetic material in all the bacteria and human DNA. However such approaches tend to overlook the viruses not classified in databases.

 With enhanced techniques in isolating virus like particles – VLPs, from the skin swabs and analysing very small quantity of genetic material, the research team were capable of aiming their sequence and analysis on viral DNA without totally depending on previously prevailing databases and made a breakthrough on analysing material afresh.

According to senior author, Elizabeth Grice, the team found that the material had features of viral genetic substance though no taxonomic classification.The most common infecting virus which was found by the researchers was the human papilloma virus that was connected to some kind of skin cancer. They also found that the viruses were location based.

Procedure Developed for DNA Sequence Analysis

Samples from forehead, palm, armpit and the other areas collected by the team for instance, revealed that viruses were more varied in areas which were occasionally exposed and covered like the wrinkle of an elbow. Moreover, the research also recognised a standard for investigations in the future studies of the normal, healthy skin virome together with a set of virus analysis tool which would now be made available to scientists for additional research in human viruses.

The University of Pennsylvania team conducting the research are now utilising the method in researching the variability of skin viruses as well as analysing virus response to issues like antibiotic use and ultraviolet radiation exposure.

Grice together with her colleagues also made available along with the paper’s supplemental information, the procedures they had developed for the DNA sequence analysis. She informed that it is freely available so that the people could do their own research or reproduce results.

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