Biologists have found an incredible number of unknown viruses in sewage


07/10/2011

Despite the fact that viruses are the most common form of life on Earth, our knowledge of the viral world of limited information on the possible existence of only a small number of these microscopic pathogens. In a research paper published in the journal mBio, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Barcelona reported that raw sewage is home to thousands of new, undiscovered viruses, some of which may have a direct bearing on health person.

In total there are about 1.8 million species of organisms on our planet, and each of them is the owner of an uncountable number of unique viruses, but to date, only about 3,000 of them have been identified. In order to study this diversity and to better characterize the unknown viruses, Professor James Pipas (James Pipas), Professor of Biological Sciences Roger Hendrix (Roger Hendrix) and Professor Michael Ghraib (Michael Grabe), all of the Department of Biological Sciences have developed new methods for the study of new viruses in unique places around the world.

In collaboration with co-authors David Wang (David Wang) and Guoyanom Zao (Guoyan Zhao) from the University of Washington, as well as Rosina Dzhirones (Rosina Girones) from the University of Barcelona, the research team looked for genetic characteristics of viruses in untreated wastewater in North America , Europe, and Africa.

In a research paper titled, "The populations of different viruses in sewage," the group reported the discovery of 234 unknown viruses that represent 26 different virus families. This makes the waste water of the house a huge variety of undiscovered viruses. "It is surprising in this finding was that the majority of viruses we found were unknown and undescribed viruses so far" - said Hendricks.

Viruses that are already known to include human pathogens such as human papillomavirus and norovirus, which causes diarrhea. Also introduced several viruses belonging familiar to all residents of sewage everywhere - rodents and cockroaches. The bacteria are also present in sewage, so it was not surprising that the viruses that constantly prey on bacteria dominate the known genetic characteristics. Finally, many unidentified viruses found in the untreated waste water originate from plants, probably due to the fact that people eat plant food and plant viruses outnumber other types of viruses found in human feces.

This analysis was the first attempt to study the entire population of viruses. Earlier studies have focused on certain types of bacteria or viruses. The researchers have also developed a number of new computational methods for the analysis of these data. One method, called metagenomics, has already been used before, but not with respect to wastewater.

The main application of this new technology, according to Hendricks, will help detect new viruses and to study the exchange of genes among viruses. "The main question we are all very interested in this - where there are viruses"? - He said. Hypothesis research group is that new viruses emerge, in particular, by the exchange of genes. But before the study of gene exchange will begin in earnest, a huge set of viruses should be studied, as the researchers noted.

Original: Sciencedaily Translation: M. Potter


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