By David A. Jernigan, D.C., D.N.M
Although many have heard of the importance of the microbiome, the virome of the human body is likely a new term for many people. The virome is the collective population of viruses within the microbial community in the healthy or sick human body. In this article we will discuss how the virome helps regulate the optimal structure and function of the body, from birth to elder years.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the NIH, “the microbiome is the collection of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes, that naturally live on our bodies and inside us. Although microbes are so small that they require a microscope to see them, they contribute in big ways to human health and wellness. They protect us against pathogens, help our immune system develop, and enable us to digest food to produce energy.”
We are conditioned to be fearful of viruses, although you will see that the vast majority of viruses in the body serve very important health benefits. As a matter of fact, recent research reported in the journal, Cell Host and Microbe, showed that a decrease in the number of viruses in a person’s virome is associated with declining health and disease. It appears that as we age, there is a decline in the number of these viruses in the virome of the body, matching the decline in a person’s health. These researchers tested the virome of almost 2000 people from 16 countries and across the group they identified 33,242 unique viral populations in the human gut, of which 97.7% were determined to be (native) bacteriophages. Bacteriophages, also known simply as phages, are viruses that only infect bacteria, not human cells. This research shows that we all have thousands of types of viruses, the types and amounts are as person specific as a person’s fingerprint.
Other research estimates there are ten million trillion trillion phages on the planet, globally causing a trillion trillion infections of host microbes…per second. Bacteriophages kill almost half the bacteria on the planet every day! Virtually every microbe is already infected with phages, through the natural order of things.
If 97.7% of the viruses in the human gut virome are unique populations of native bacteriophages, and each type of phage will selectively only use a specific type of bacterial host, then out of the 33,242 viruses potentially in the bodies of the 2000 people in the study, 32,477 (97.7%) are unique types of bacteriophages, each of which will only infect a certain type of bacterial population, the human body must have a potential range of 32,477 different types of bacterial populations, just in the human gut, not to mention other parts of the body. Some of these bacteria would be pathogenic to the human body if phages and the immune system didn’t keep them in line.
You might think there couldn’t be 32,477 different types of bacteria in the body, but the Earth Microbiome Project, the largest study of global gut microbiome of people, found over 300,000 unique microbes, out of which 90% were previously unknown.
These 32,477 phages are known as native phages. As you will see, native phages are symbiotic organisms with the human body, every bit as natural in the body as the rest of the microbiome.
Bacteriophages are not to be confused with macrophages, which are a type of white blood cell that is part of your immune system. Bacteriophages are viruses that prey upon and infect a specific type of bacteria as a means of reproduction. Viruses cannot reproduce themselves, so they need a host. Each type of bacteriophage can only use one specific type of bacteria as a reproductive host. This means a Streptococcus-phage will only infect a Streptococcus bacterium. The Pseudomonas aeruginosa-phage will only infect a Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. A Burkholderia-phage will only infect a Burkholderia bacterium. A Klebsiella pneumoniae-phage will only infect Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria. A Borrelia burgdorferi-phage will only infect a Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Each type of phage needs its specific type of bacteria to be its host to survive. We now know that each bacterial strain within a bacterial type will have its own specific phage type, such as Borrelia miyamotoi bacteria have a specific Borrelia miyamotoi-phage which will not use the related Borrelia burgdorferi strain as a host.
The phage lands on the surface of their specific bacterial host and injects phage genetic material inside the bacteria where it gets incorporated into the bacterial genetic engine. The phage highjacks the bacteria’s genetic engine, causing the bacteria to reproduce more phages. The bacteria then start replicating thousands of prophages inside the bacteria until the phages break apart the bacteria, killing it, and these prophages move through the body, each one seeking out its own type of that bacteria to infect, and the cycle repeats itself.
Classic Bacteriophage Therapy versus Native Phage Therapy
The reader must differentiate that the native bacteriophages being discussed herein are not the type of bacteriophages in classic bacteriophage therapy, which are externally sourced, isolated, and purified bacteriophages often found in bacteria-rich environments, such as sewage, and soil, and then matched to a person’s infection to be given in a nasal spray or suppository.
Native bacteriophages are those found already living harmlessly within the human body. Most if not all native phages entered the human body as a hitchhiker within the bacteria to which the human was exposed. As discussed, native phages do not need to be tested to match a person’s bacterial infection, since the native phages are already specific to the type of bacteria causing the infection.
In classic bacteriophage therapy, the treatment can be difficult to achieve success if the externally-sourced bacteriophage cannot use the receptor sites of the targeted bacteria. Careful selection and testing largely eliminates this problem. Often, a cocktail of different phages are given in the hope that each phage-type will be able to attack the bacteria from a different receptor site for a more effective treatment. One might think of a lock and key analogy, where the classic phage must be the correct key to fit and open the bacterial lock. Native phages are naturally a perfect fit for their host receptors, having preyed upon that type of bacteria for a millennium. Native phages have a somewhat parasitic-type relationship with the specific type of bacterial population they use as a host, and therefore they have easy access to the bacterial membrane receptor sites.
Both treatment strategies, classical and native, work amazingly well when they are successful, however at this time only native phage therapy is legal in the U.S. Classical phage therapy cannot be performed without Compassionate Use Authorization, in the United States currently, and even then only after every other means of antibiotic treatment have been exhausted. In patients who have been on long-term antibiotics, the bacteria have mutated to such a degree that the phage/bacteria dynamic has often been altered beyond the ability of classic or native phage therapy to work. Better would be if classic or native phages could be used as a first-line treatment for any and all bacterial infections.
It must be understood that either type of phage therapy, classical or native, deal with two living organisms (technically viruses are not alive, since the definition of a lifeform implies the ability to self-replicate) who will battle it out inside the body. The bacteria have defense mechanisms against the phages, making the outcome somewhat of a coin toss at times. This is contrasted to drug therapies which have a predictable drug or chemical effect, but often come with side-effects. When successful however, the phage therapies annihilate the targeted bacterial population, sometimes within 24-48 hours, compared to antibiotics which are known to never be able to eliminate the target infection and often cause multi-drug resistant bacterial mutations…superbugs.
Phages – The Great Regulators of the Body
In the natural order of things, native phages infect their host bacterial population, they in the process of surrogate lysogeny, kill approximately 40% of their hosts. At times, phages can be induced by changes in their environment to turn lytic (virulent), suddenly killing 100% of their host population.
Most of the time phages are just killing 40% of their host population per day, after which the phages send out a chemical, signaling for all the phages to stop the lysogenic process in order to enable the bacterial host population to regenerate itself. The phages would die out within four days of the last bacterial host being killed. There would be no more hosts to be the surrogate to reproduce more phages.
It is this phage predation of bacteria that regulates all the bacterial populations from growing unchecked in the human body. Even a type of bacterium that we know to be a highly beneficial to the human body, as in the friendly flora, can be harmful if their population grew unchecked.
There is still much to learn about the beneficial roles in which phages play in regulating health in the human body. Phage therapy is transcending its role in fighting infections, and is now being used to directly target and eliminate targeted cell pathologies. It is known that phages can affect all levels of human physiology, including but not limited to activating immunological processes. Native phages are now being researched to increase our understanding their complex benefits to change the microenvironment within tumors. Phages are being used to break up the beta-amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimers disease and other neurological disorders.
Native phages have also been shown to be a big factor in the natural functioning of our brain, enabling us to achieve higher-level thought processes. It turns out that human intelligence may have more to do with the numbers and diversity of phages a person has in their gut. The more diverse and healthy populations of phages in your body, the more able you are to focus, retain information, concentrate, plan, and successfully execute those plans.
Although, phages are mostly known for their regulating or killing of bacterial populations, it is becoming clearer that phages may be to some degree the “software” that regulates much of the biochemical processes in the body, even helping to regulate inflammation, through their anti-inflammatory effects. As stated earlier, optimum health can be viewed as a component of high numbers and high diversity of phages in the body.
One can only imagine the devastating effect that heavy hitting, broad-spectrum antibiotics, such as Disulfiram or Doxycycline, have on the native phage community as the drugs indiscriminately kill friendly, beneficial bacteria at the same time they are trying to kill the bad bacteria. Is it any wonder that many people on long-term antibiotics suffer long-term from cognitive problems prolonged inflammatory, hyper-reactive environmental sensitivities, fatigue, and malaise? The phageome/virome and the collective microbiome that help maintain health have been devastated in these cases.
Manipulating the Structure and Function of Native Phages
Optimum health is that point where the body, mind, and spirit can adapt instantly and correctly to any challenge/change in its internal and external environment. Human existence is a constantly changing dance of adaption within every moment.
What is the human body? We tend think of the body as the flesh and bones, and the collective cells that combine to create flesh and bones. However, scientists estimate that at the very least there are as many bacteria in the body as there are human cells, and at the highest estimate there are 10 times more bacteria in the body than human cells. All these bacteria are infected by bacteriophages. Bacteriophage vastly outnumber the cells of the body and all the bacteria by several magnitudes. It turns out, the human body, on every level, cannot function correctly or live a long, productive life without the microbiome.
Any challenge or change in the human organism dynamically alters the epigenetic regulation of every aspect of the body and everything within the body, such as native phages. Subtle changes can often influence whether a phage is functioning in a lysogenic or lytic manner with their host, or how a phage directly influences human cell physiology. Phage epigenetics respond to shifts in the body’s metabolism.. All cellular and phage epigenetic shifts occur simultaneously throughout the human organism through cell signaling and signal amplification.
Native Phages in Human Therapeutics
In human therapeutics, every modality, whether Chiropractic structural adjustments or adjustments to a patient’s diet and nutrition, and direct energetic inputs of hands-on treatments is have a positive effect on the phageome. Pharmaceutical interventions, radiation, or surgery cause negative influences on the virome of phages in the body.
Mainstream medicine is researching the purposeful reprogramming of phages using genome-wide reprogramming of methylation, something that already occurs in native phages due to enzymatic shifts in vivo.
As a more natural approach, this author developed the purposeful manipulation of the epigenetic expression of native phages with precise sequencing of subtle inputs into the crystalline-matrix of the patient. This new development is called, Induced Native Phage Therapy (INPT). INPT has been shown to be able the positively influence phage lytic activation, causing the native phages to rapidly eliminate their host bacterial population. Phage induction to lysis occurs in nature through subtle changes in the phage environment, but never before has there been a way to directly cause it at will.
The greater the number of phages that are activated, the more likely the specific phage population will choose to kill the targeted microbe using lysis. Lysis kills the targeted bacteria more rapidly and completely than the lysogenic cycle, which only kills 40% per day..
While the presence of a potentially pathogenic bacteria does not mean a person will definitely come down with any symptoms, an obvious fact since about 1% of the 32,477 different types of bacteria in the gut virome database are potentially pathogenic under the right conditions. It is the role of the virome (phageome) to keep these potentially bad actors from over-populating and causing disease. If these bacteria to do get out of control, the subtle inducements of the INPT, can be directed to turn the phages virulent (lytic) against the bad bacteria and at times completely eliminate them within 24-48 hours, although it can require extended treatment time and adjusting of the treatment.
The History of Bacteriophage Therapy
It is interesting that 102 years after the discovery of bacteriophages in 1917 by self-taught scientist, Felix D’Hérelle, this author, a self-taught phage researcher and Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine, discovered a way to induce native phages (INPT) to kill their host bacteria without the need to introduce phages from outside the patient’s body in 2019.
In this author’s opinion, D’Hérelle’s use of Yersinia pestis-phages from plague-infected rats was a form of native phage therapy, not the classic phage therapy as practiced today. Classic phage therapy seeks different types of phages that might kill the targeted infection. Rats are natural carriers of the Yersinia bacterial infection but are immune to its effects. It is my belief, that his native phages derived from the rats, worked in human plague patients because although the human Yersinia infection carried its own Yersinia-phages, non-induced native phages send out a chemical message to stop killing their host bacteria after 40% of the bacterial population are killed via quiescent lysogeny. In this way, the bacteria can replenish their population numbers every day. As thousands of phages are released from inside, the now dead bacterial host into the body of the patient, the phages must seek out bacteria which have not already been infected by another phage. When D’Hérelle added his phages to the phage population already in the plague patients, the number of phages then overwhelmed the bacterial population and eliminated 100% of the Yersinia bacteria, curing the patients.
The beauty of Induced Native Phage Therapy is that it works in alignment with the natural structure and functioning of the body, since now we understand the definition of the human body must include all its virome and complete microbiome, which greatly outnumbers the cells of the body many times over. If the presence of bacteria and viruses is considered an infection, then we are indeed a walking, talking infection.
If one could “speak” the language of phage, then the phage infection of my bad bacterial infection could be my very good ally.
INPT is an emerging technology that has been demonstrated in extensive independent laboratory testing to enable a communication of sorts to the specific type of phages desired to solicit their help with bacterial infections anywhere in the body. This works hand in hand with all truly healing treatments found in non-pharmaceutical treatments, such as those treatments and therapies found in some specializations in the practice of Chiropractic Medicine.
A Summary of Native Phage Structure and Function Benefits:
- Produce anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
- Modulate the release of cytokines.
- Maintain and limit the size of all bacterial populations.
- Enable optimal executive cognitive functions.
- Improve outcomes in cancerous conditions.
- Assists in regulation of the metabolism and energy production
- Assist in regulating immune system.
- Promote human longevity.
Chiropractic Medicine pursues the facilitation of healing from the inside out using natural means that work in alignment with the wisdom of the body. From this research, we see that health is not the absence of bacteria or viruses, however when the body is weakened in any way, bacteria can opportunistically cause disease, necessitating methods that help restore the integrity of the entire body, mind, and spirit. Our body truly holds the keys to healing. Optimum health requires a diverse and large native phage population. Phages are part of the natural structure and function of the body.