Recent research indicates that in the intestinal microbiome, health benefits that are lost when certain bacteria go missing may be restored—by viruses, of all things. While viruses are unlikely to become the next probiotic, the new finding obviously points to intriguing lines of investigation. Less obviously, explorations of the microbiome’s viral dimension could inspire new mental images of the microbiome.
Which way of thinking about the microbiome would best integrate the virome’s contributions?
Viruses are just additional members of the microbiome ecosystem. The old ecology metaphor still “has legs.”
Viruses may harm/help different people in different circumstances, so it would be best to think of microbiomes as cultures or civilizations, where bad/good distinctions are similarly shifty.
It would be best to be as reductive as possible and focus on molecular-level interactions. Think in terms of signals and messages. Make use of the network metaphor.
Try not to rely on any analogy or metaphor. After all, the map is not the territory.