Groundbreaking Study Discovers Over 1,400 New Viruses

Posted: Nov 26 2016, 8:01am CST | by , Updated: Nov 26 2016, 8:07am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Groundbreaking Study Discovers Over 1,400 New Viruses
Credit: University of Sydney
 

Humans are surrounded by numerous viruses but fortunately most of them do not transmit diseases

Sequencing the samples directly taken from invertebrates, researchers have uncovered a trove of new viruses. Researchers have found that humans are surrounded by numerous viruses, which stem from insects, worms and spiders living in and around our houses. However, most of them do not cause diseases. 

“This groundbreaking study re-writes the virology text book by showing that invertebrates carry an extraordinary number of viruses – far more than we ever thought.” Professor Edward Holmes, one of the Australian researchers involved in the study said.

For the study, researchers extracted the RNA samples from over 220 land and sea invertebrates living in China. The metagenomics revealed that those invertebrates were home to 1,455 new viruses, including several new families.

The findings not only expand the number of known viruses but also indicate that these viruses have existed for billions of years. Previously, it was thought that these microorganisms have been around not more than millions of years and there source of origin was also not confirmed.

“It is remarkable that invertebrate like insects carry so many very viruses – no one had thought to look before because most of them had not been associated with human borne illnesses.” Holmes said.

Though most of the invertebrates or animals lacking backbone do not generally spread diseases but there are still many infects like mosquitoes or ticks that can transmit potentially harmful viruses in humans like dengue, zika and Lyme disease.

“We have discovered that most groups of viruses that infect vertebrates - including humans, such as those that cause well-known diseases like influenza - are in fact derived from those present in invertebrates." Holmes said

The identification of new viruses was not straightforward but advanced sequencing techniques made it possible to expand the catalogue of viruses. The technology can also works as a powerful tool to determine what pathogens cause human diseases.

“Our study utilized new techniques in meta-genomics, which we are also using to provide insights into the causes of human-borne diseases,” said Holmes.

“The new, expensive technologies available to researchers which have allowed us to do this landmark project, provide the ultimate diagnostic tool.”

The pioneering study is a collaborative effort between University of Sydney and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing.

 

 

 

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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