The gut virome in Irritable Bowel Syndrome differs from that of controls

Gut Microbes. Jan-Dec 2021;13(1):1-15. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2021.1887719.

S Coughlan 1, A Das 1 2, E O'Herlihy 1, F Shanahan 1 3, P W O'Toole 1 2 3, I B Jeffery 1


Author information

  • 14D Pharma Cork Limited, Cavanagh Pharmacy Building, University College Cork, National University of Ireland , Cork, Ireland.
  • 2School of Microbiology, University College Cork, National University of Ireland , Cork, Ireland.
  • 3APC Microbiome Ireland, University College Cork, National University of Ireland , Cork, Ireland.


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the most common gastrointestinal disorder, is diagnosed solely on symptoms. Potentially diagnostic alterations in the bacterial component of the gut microbiome (the bacteriome) are associated with IBS, but despite the known role of the virome (particularly bacteriophages), in shaping the gut bacteriome, few studies have investigated the virome in IBS. We performed metagenomic sequencing of fecal Virus-Like Particles (VLPs) from 55 patients with IBS and 51 control individuals. We detected significantly lower alpha diversity of viral clusters comprising both known and novel viruses (viral 'dark matter') in IBS and a significant difference in beta diversity compared to controls, but not between IBS symptom subtypes. The three most abundant bacteriophage clusters belonged to the Siphoviridae, Myoviridae, and Podoviridaefamilies (Order Caudovirales). A core virome (defined as a cluster present in at least 50% of samples) of 5 and 12 viral clusters was identified in IBS and control subjects, respectively. We also identified a subset of viral clusters that showed differential abundance between IBS and controls. The virome did not co-vary significantly with the bacteriome, with IBS clinical subtype, or with Bile Acid Malabsorption status. However, differences in the virome could be related back to the bacteriome as analysis of CRISPR spacers indicated that the virome alterations were at least partially related to the alterations in the bacteriome. We found no evidence for a shift from lytic to lysogenic replication of core viral clusters, a phenomenon reported for the gut virome of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Collectively, our data show alterations in the virome of patients with IBS, regardless of clinical subtype, which may facilitate development of new microbiome-based therapeutics.

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