FunNature & Animal5,500 new species of RNA viruses discovered in the...

5,500 new species of RNA viruses discovered in the oceans


The research comes from the Tara Ocean Foundation, which aims to develop innovative and original open ocean science that will help predict, anticipate and understand future climate risks and their potential effects on ocean biodiversity.

The researchers collected more than 35,000 water samples from oceans around the world. They analyzed living organisms present in the water samples for RNA sequences that are indicative of the presence of RNA viruses.

Although scientists are familiar with RNA viruses, the study revealed at least 5,500 viral species that are completely new to science and are found in ocean waters.

“RNA viruses are clearly important in our world, but we usually only study a small portion of them, the few hundred that harm humans, plants and animals,” says Matthew Sullivan, a professor of microbiology at Pennsylvania State University. Ohio and co-author of the paper published by Science . “We wanted to systematically study them on a large scale and explore an environment that no one had really looked at in depth, and we were lucky because practically all the species were new, and many were really new.”

Of the thousands of new species, they include representatives of all five currently accepted RNA virus phyla, but also other features that did not fit within any of the existing phyla. The researchers suggested that at least five new phyla had to be established to properly classify the new viruses: Taraviricota, Pomiviricota, Paraxenoviricota, Wamoviricota, and Arctiviricota.

Experts believe that these types of viruses have three main functions: to kill cells, to change the way infected cells handle energy, and to transfer genes from one host to another.

The team is preparing a proposal to request formalization of candidate virus phyla and classes; All this will give us a better understanding of how early life on the planet could have evolved. According to the researchers, we are tracing “the origins of life.”


Referencia: Jessica M. Labonté and Kathryn L. Campbell . There’s more to RNA viruses than diseases. Science • 7 Apr 2022 • Vol 376, Issue 6589 • pp. 138-139 • DOI: 10.1126/science.abo5590 / Ahmed A. Zayed et al, Cryptic and abundant marine viruses at the evolutionary origins of Earth’s RNA virome, Science (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abm5847.

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