On the sunlit surface of our oceans a completely new type of virus was found. The specimens are related to both giant viruses and herpesviruses and could help shed more light on the evolutionary history of herpes.
Ocean: “Strange” virus detected
The researchers gave the pathogen the name Mirusvirus or Mirusviricota. This term comes from the Latin “mirus”, which means “wonderful” or “strange”. In detail, these belong to a group of viruses called Duplodnaviria. This is a large type of double-stranded DNA virus that also includes herpesviruses.
However, mirus viruses do not infect humans, but usually only infect unicellular plankton. However, this indicates that, according to the published in Nature Studythat the ancestors of the herpes viruses once infected marine protozoa.
Although their evolutionary heritage dates back to herpesviruses, most of the mirusvirus genes are similar to those found in giant viruses, which are really big viruses. Still, the researchers say this never-before-seen group of viruses is quite unique.
Unforeseen complexity of the ocean surface
The new viruses were found while reviewing data collected as part of the Tara Ocean Expedition. The project collected more than 35,000 samples of viruses, algae and plankton from over 200 different locations around the world.
In addition, their genetic material has been sequenced, giving scientists a wealth of data to sift through. These offer them many opportunities to discover new species. In a statement about it is called es:
“The discovery of Mirusviricota reminds us that we have not yet fully grasped the ecological and evolutionary complexity of even the most abundant double-stranded DNA viruses in important ecosystems such as the surface of our oceans and seas.”
Statement of the participating researchers (via CNRS)
Also investigate outside of oceans
“The publication of this discovery in Nature marks the beginning of a new adventure and a gateway for the scientific community to detect and study mirusviruses in any number of ecosystems,” said Tom Delmont, study author and expert in microbial ecology at the French National Center for scientific research further.
There is still a lot to discover and understand about mirus viruses, adds Morgan Gaïa, first author of the study. According to them, they have yet to be cultivated, there are no pictures of their viral particles, and they have yet to be studied in places other than the oceans.
Quellen: „Mirusviruses link herpesviruses to giant viruses“ (Nature, 2023), CNRS
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