Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in the microbiome has profound consequences for human health and disease. The spread of antibiotic resistance genes, virulence, and pathogenicity determinants predominantly occurs by way of HGT. Evidence exists of extensive horizontal transfer in the human gut microbiome. Phage transduction is a type of HGT event in which a bacteriophage transfers non-viral DNA from one bacterial host cell to another. The abundance of tailed bacteriophages in the human gut suggests that transduction could act as a significant mode of HGT in the gut microbiome. Here we review in detail the known mechanisms of phage-mediated HGT, namely specialized and generalized transduction, lateral transduction, gene-transfer agents, and molecular piracy, as well as methods used to detect phage-mediated HGT, and discuss its potential implications for the human gut microbiome.

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