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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 May;80(9):2648-55. doi: 10.1128/AEM.03242-13. Epub 2014 Feb 7.

Viruses in a 14th-century coprolite.

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Aix Marseille University, URMITE, UM63, CNRS 7278, IRD 198, INSERM 1095, Marseille, France.


Coprolites are fossilized fecal material that can reveal information about ancient intestinal and environmental microbiota. Viral metagenomics has allowed systematic characterization of viral diversity in environmental and human-associated specimens, but little is known about the viral diversity in fossil remains. Here, we analyzed the viral community of a 14th-century coprolite from a closed barrel in a Middle Ages site in Belgium using electron microscopy and metagenomics. Viruses that infect eukaryotes, bacteria, and archaea were detected, and we confirmed the presence of some of them by ad hoc suicide PCR. The coprolite DNA viral metagenome was dominated by sequences showing homologies to phages commonly found in modern stools and soil. Although their phylogenetic compositions differed, the metabolic functions of the viral communities have remained conserved across centuries. Antibiotic resistance was one of the reconstructed metabolic functions detected.

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