Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria, living and reproducing within their cells as parasites. It has been proven in a previous study that the improvement or retardation of mental health can be linked to the existence of specific bacteria types in the gut. This discovery made scientists curious as to whether the same can be said of bacteriophages, and this led to the research done by a team of scientists, in collaboration with several institutions in Spain. They found out that the presence of these organisms in the human gut, as well as that of mice and flies, may likely help boost memory and the ability to engage perfectly in logical activities.
The team studied two types of bacteriophages – Microviridae (which has one strand of DNA) and Caudovirales (which has two strands of DNA) – to determine which of them is linked to the fact. During the period of the study, they were able to get samples of feces from over 1000 people (precisely 1056) who volunteered to give their samples to the scientists to aid the study.
They collected the fecal samples of all volunteers and tested them taking note of the levels of both types of the virus. They also tested their ability to memorize information, including their intellectual abilities. The results showed that the volunteers with a greater level of Caudovirales did better in the tests as opposed to those who had more Microviridae in their fecal sample. They researched further to find out what type of food facilitated the existence of these bacteriophages in the gut of humans, and they discovered that milk-containing foods were a huge contributor to their presence within the gut.
After the study on humans, they wanted to know if the same results would be witnessed in fruit flies and mice. They transferred the fecal samples from the gut of the volunteers into the guts of fruit flies and mice. Then, just as they did with the humans, they tested their levels of performance and intellectual ability, and just as was with the humans, the animals with greater levels of Caudovirales had better memory performance and intellectual abilities than those who had low levels of this type of bacteriophage.
The researchers, however, stated that this study does not fully demonstrate this impact of bacteriophages on intellectual ability, because they think that the results could also have been influenced by the presence of other bacteria in the gut. They are still in the process of confirming the fact.
When scientists can find more evidence to prove that bacteriophages, in particular, can be linked to boosting intellectual ability, then these organisms can be studied further and drugs that can boost mental health and intellectual ability in humans can be manufactured from them.
There is a chance that bacteriophages may be linked to intellectual capability in humans, and improve mental health. This possibility is worthy of further research.