Recent years have witnessed an explosion of interest in the human microbiota. Although commensal bacteria have dominated research efforts to date, mounting evidence suggests that endogenous viral populations (the ‘virome’) play key roles in basic human physiology. The most numerous constituents of the human virome are not eukaryotic viruses but rather bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria. Here, we review phages’ interactions with their immediate (prokaryotic) and extended (eukaryotic) hosts and with each other, with a particular emphasis on the temperate phages and prophages which dominate the human virome. We also discuss key outstanding questions in this emerging field and emphasize the urgent need for functional studies in animal models to complement previous in vitro work and current computational approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)943-954
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • bacteriophage
  • lysogeny
  • microbiota
  • phageome
  • prophage
  • virome


Dive into the research topics of 'Close Encounters of Three Kinds: Bacteriophages, Commensal Bacteria, and Host Immunity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this