Transfer of viral communities between human individuals during fecal microbiota transplantation

Christel Chehoud, Anatoly Dryga, Young Hwang, Dorottya Nagy-Szakal, Emily B. Hollister, Ruth Ann Luna, James Versalovic, Richard Kellermayer, Frederic D. Bushman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is a highly effective treatment for refractory Clostridium difficile infections. However, concerns persist about unwanted cotransfer of pathogenic microbes such as viruses. Here we studed FMT from a single healthy human donor to three pediatric ulcerative colitis patients, each of whom received a course of 22 to 30 FMT treatments. Viral particles were purified from donor and recipient stool samples and sequenced; the reads were then assembled into contigs corresponding to viral genomes or partial genomes. Transfer of selected viruses was confirmed by quantitative PCR. Viral contigs present in the donor could be readily detected in recipients, with up to 32 different donor viral contigs appearing in a recipient sample. Reassuringly, none of these were viruses are known to replicate on human cells. Instead, viral contigs either scored as bacteriophage or could not be attributed taxonomically, suggestive of unstudied phage. The two most frequently transferred gene types were associated with temperate-phage replication. In addition, members of Siphoviridae, the group of typically temperate phages that includes phage lambda, were found to be transferred with significantly greater efficiency than other groups. On the basis of these findings, we propose that the temperate-phage replication style may promote efficient phage transfer between human individuals. In summary, we documented transfer of multiple viral lineages between human individuals through FMT, but in this case series, none were from viral groups known to infect human cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00322-16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 29 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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