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The coronavirus pandemic has had the world fixated on viruses like no time in living memory, but new evidence reveals humans never even notice the vast extent of viral existence – even when it's inside us.

A new database project compiled by scientists has identified over 140,000 viral species that dwell in the human gut – a giant catalogue that's all the more stunning given over half of these viruses were previously unknown to science.

If tens of thousands of newly discovered viruses sounds like an alarming development, that's completely understandable. But we shouldn't misinterpret what these viruses within us actually represent, researchers say.

"It's important to remember that not all viruses are harmful, but represent an integral component of the gut ecosystem," explains biochemist Alexandre Almeida from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

"These samples came mainly from healthy individuals who didn't share any specific diseases."

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