Sunday, November 27, 2016

1500 New Invertebrate Viruses Discovered & Brings Many Implications for Human Viruses

1500 New Invertebrate Viruses Discovered & Brings Many Implications for Human Viruses

A new study has been released announcing the discovery of almost 1,500 new viruses! These viruses were discovered by research team that collected ~220 species of invertebrates in China from both land and water.

After collecting the invertebrates, researchers extracted their RNA and then sequenced all of the genomes of extracted RNA in “libraries”. These libraries can categorize the RNA as being viral genomes, and if so, whether the genome is part of a previously discovered virus or a new virus.  as  As a result of this sequencing, the researchers realized that they had discovered nearly 1,500 new virus species!

The implications of these findings are tremendous. First of all, the diversity of the viral species was magnificent; some of them were particularly unusual, and would lack a spot on the  current  “viral family tree” and present classification systems. This emphasizes to me just how much we still have yet to learn regarding viruses, both invertebrate viruses and human viruses alike. Furthermore, the sequenced RNA also showed evidence that viruses have in fact been trading segments  of genetic material for generations, and recombined these genome units in different orders and with quantities present to create different viruses.   A final mind-blowing discovery found from this study is that  human, and other vertebrate viruses “derived from those present in invertebrates” (Prof Edward Holmes from the University of Sydney). This discovery seems tremendous to me – that most of the prevalent viruses that impact our everyday life in fact originated from invertebrates! I wonder if researchers will discover new viruses that infect humans that also infect invertebrates; further, I am curious to think about whether or not researchers could look  at invertebrate adaptations to viruses, and see if perhaps these  adaptations could aid researchers in finding vaccines / treatments for similar strands of viruses that affect humans!!
 - Ashley Jowell
Source: "Bumper Load of New Viruses Identified" (BBC, November 24 2016) 

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