Who looks for viruses in diapers?  And what does he find?

Who looks for viruses in diapers? And what does he find?

What are the diapers hiding? For moms, the obvious. For scientists, a wonderful world of unknown viruses and a wealth of information on the infant’s intestinal microbiota.

A new study published in the scientific journal Natural microbiology finds that the infant gut harbors viruses from at least 200 “families” that appear to have a protective effect on infants. This is the first time that such a large number have been identified, and many of these viruses were previously unknown!

In relevant research, an international scientific team studied the…soiled diapers of 647 babies from Denmark. “We have found an impressive number of unknown viruses in the stools of these babies. These are not only thousands of new species of viruses, but, to our surprise, more than 200 families of viruses that have not yet been This means that healthy children early in life are plagued by an extreme variety of intestinal viruses, which probably have a significant impact on the later development of various diseases.” said study leader Dennis Sandris Nielsen, professor of food science at the University of Copenhagen.

The researchers found and mapped a total of 10,000 types of virus in infant stool. This number is ten times greater than the number of bacterial species in the same children.

These viruses are divided into 248 different “families”, of which only 16 were previously known. The researchers named the remaining 232 unknown virus families after the children in the study. So there are now families of viruses like Sylvesterviridae, Rigmorviridae and Tristanviridae!

“This is the first systematic overview of the diversity of childhood intestinal viruses. It establishes an entirely new basis for studying the importance of viruses for the development of the microbiome and the immune system, but also for the protection against chronic diseases, such as asthma and diabetes.” says Shiraz Shah, researcher at Center for Prospective Studies on Childhood Asthmain Copenhagen, where the study began.

90% of viruses discovered in diapers belong to the bacteriophage species. These viruses have bacteria as hosts and do not attack children’s cells, which means they do not cause disease. Scientists now hypothesize that bacteriophages serve as “allies”, helping to boost metabolism as well as the body’s defenses. Bacteriophages also appear to help maintain the balance of the gut microbiome by controlling individual bacterial populations.

On the significance of all this, Shiraz Shah explains: “Until now, the research community has focused primarily on the role bacteria play in the development of health and disease. But now the role of viruses is also being revealed, which we need to know about. more. Viruses, bacteria and the immune system likely interact and influence each other, while creating a balance. Any disruption of this balance likely increases the risk of chronic disease.”

The remaining 10% of the viruses identified by this study are eukaryotic, which means that they use human cells as hosts. These viruses can be both “friends” and “enemies”. “As if it were a persistent viral infection, which obviously does not make babies sick. However, we still know very little. We hypothesize that it is related to training the immune system to recognize infections later. But it can also be a risk factor for diseases that we haven’t yet discovered.” notes Professor Nielsen.

Where were all these viruses found?

Researchers have not yet discovered where the many viruses in infants come from. They assume that the environment is “to blame”. “Our gut is sterile until we are born. At birth, we are exposed to bacteria from our mother and the environment. It is possible that some of the first viruses come with these initial bacteria, while many others are introduced later, from babies’ contact with the outside world.”said Nielsen.

What is certain is that the case requires further research, in order to establish whether and to what extent this rich ecosystem of the infant gut plays a role in the protection against inflammatory and chronic diseases.

About viruses in general and bacteriophages in particular

A virus is a microorganism consisting of a genome – either DNA or RNA – encapsulated in a protein membrane. Viruses cannot reproduce on their own. They seek out hosts and use the “foreign” cells to make copies of themselves.

Viruses are classified into families, which are further divided into “genera” and “species”. A well-known and current example of this classification is the coronavirus: its “family” includes the viruses SARS-CoV-2 (which causes the pandemic disease Covid-19), MERS, SARS and several cold viruses.

Bacteriophages are very small viruses, which penetrate the bacterial membrane and either cause an internal “explosion”, which releases more viral particles, or reproduce by integrating their genetic material into the genome of the host bacterium. In recent years, the role that bacteriophage viruses could play in the fight against dangerous and drug-resistant bacteria has been studied.

A few things about diapers that baby moms might not know

The baby diaper market in Europe reached €7 billion in 2020. It is estimated to grow at an annual rate of 3.6%. In the United States, this same market is expected to exceed 92 billion dollars by 2030. Every minute, Europe produces 1,000 disposable diapers. In the first year of life, a baby uses about 3,000 diapers. It is estimated that up to 12 diapers are needed each day.

In recent years, much has been said about the environmental footprint of diapers: disposable diapers contain plastic and take many years to decompose. On average, disposable diapers represent up to 50% of household waste. It is the third most common type of household waste in landfills! However, reusable cloth diapers are not necessarily considered more environmentally friendly, as they require resources and energy to wash and reuse.

A study made public in 2019 revealed that nappies made from materials containing dangerous and potentially toxic substances for infants were on the European market. The study estimated that more than 14 million infants were exposed to substances associated with serious endocrine disorders, reproductive system disorders and some forms of cancer. Since then, Europe has banned hazardous substances in diapers.

Follow Protagon on Google News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *