Research teams from Australia and China have discovered almost 1,500 new viruses. Yes, that’s right: 1,500. These viruses were found in invertebrates. These viruses may have been around for billions of years.
Investigating invertebrates for new viral species is something that is not commonly a focus for virologists. Usually, the study of viruses focuses on viruses causing human, animal, or plant diseases. The international research team decided to look into invertebrates, which include spiders, insects, worms, and snails.
The research team studied the RNA of 220 species of invertebrates living in China. The RNA was sequenced, analyzing a whopping 6 trillion letters present in the invertebrate RNA libraries. After analyzing the data they collected, the team realized it discovered nearly 1,500 new virus species, so distinct that they could not fit within the currently established viral family tree.
This study has been one of the largest virus discoveries and could lead to many changes in the virus phylogeny. These newly discovered viruses do not seem to pose a significant risk to humans according to these researchers, but we should still look into this possibility. This could lead to better understanding and prediction of emerging viruses from invertebrates.
The findings were published Nature on Nov. 23rd and you can read them here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature20167.html