Initial mapping of the new york city wastewater virome

K. Gulino, J. Rahman, M. Badri, J. Morton, R. Bonneau, R. Bonneau, R. Bonneau, E. Ghedin, E. Ghedin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bacteriophages are abundant members of all microbiomes studied to date, influencing microbial communities through interactions with their bacterial hosts. Despite their functional importance and ubiquity, phages have been underexplored in urban environments compared to their bacterial counterparts. We profiled the viral communities in New York City (NYC) wastewater using metagenomic data collected in November 2014 from 14 wastewater treatment plants. We show that phages accounted for the largest viral component of the sewage samples and that specific virus communities were associated with local environmental conditions within boroughs. The vast majority of the virus sequences had no homology matches in public databases, forming an average of 1,700 unique virus clusters (putative genera). These new clusters contribute to elucidating the overwhelming proportion of data that frequently goes unidentified in viral metagenomic studies. We assigned potential hosts to these phages, which appear to infect a wide range of bacterial genera, often outside their presumed host. We determined that infection networks form a modular-nested pattern, indicating that phages include a range of host specificities, from generalists to specialists, with most interactions organized into distinct groups. We identified genes in viral contigs involved in carbon and sulfur cycling, suggesting functional importance of viruses in circulating pathways and gene functions in the wastewater environment. In addition, we identified virophage genes as well as a nearly complete novel virophage genome. These findings provide an understanding of phage abundance and diversity in NYC wastewater, previously uncharacterized, and further examine geographic patterns of phagehost association in urban environments. Importance: Wastewater is a rich source of microbial life and contains bacteria, viruses, and other microbes found in human waste as well as environmental runoff sources. As part of an effort to characterize the New York City wastewater metagenome, we profiled the viral community of sewage samples across all five boroughs of NYC and found that local sampling sites have unique sets of viruses. We focused on bacteriophages, or viruses of bacteria, to understand how they may influence the microbial ecology of this system. We identified several new clusters of phages and successfully associated them with bacterial hosts, providing insight into virus-host interactions in urban wastewater. This study provides a first look into the viral communities present across the wastewater system in NYC and points to their functional importance in this environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00876-19
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Bacteriophage
  • Metagenomics
  • Virome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Computer Science Applications


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