Discovered a secret virus that dominates oceans around the world

Scientists say thousands of mysterious viruses have been discovered recently lurking in the world's oceans. In it, the focus is on RNA viruses that infect other ocean creatures.


The new study, published in the journal Science, focuses on viruses that contain RNA, a "cousin" molecule of DNA.RNA viruses are abundant in human diseases. For example, coronavirus and influenza virus are both RNA-based. When it comes to RNA viruses in the ocean, however, scientists are just learning about the variety that can be found and the range of hosts they can infect.

Dr Guillermo Dominguez-Huerta, a scholar in viral ecology at Ohio State University (OSU) and a study co-author, told Live Science: "Based on the new study, we're pretty sure that most of it is." RNA viruses in the ocean are infecting eukaryotes".

Eukaryotes are organisms that have complex cells that contain their genetic material inside the nucleus.

These viral hosts - namely fungi and protozoa, including algae and amoeba - pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and thus affect the amount of carbon stored in the ocean.

"By infecting these organisms, RNA viruses can affect the way carbon flows through," said Steven Wilhelm, principal investigator of the Aquatic Microbial Ecology Research Group at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. ocean".

In early 2022, Dominguez-Huerta and colleagues reported finding more than 5,500 previously unidentified RNA viruses in the world's oceans.

The team analyzed 35,000 water samples collected from 121 locations across five oceans by the Tara Oceans Consortium, an ongoing global study that examines the effects of climate change on the oceans.

These water samples are filled with plankton - tiny organisms that drift with the currents and often act as hosts for RNA viruses.

To detect viruses in these plankton, the researchers screened all the RNA in the plankton's cells for a specific piece of genetic code, called the RdRp gene.

The scientists identified viral communities that can be sorted into four main regions: Arctic, Antarctic, Temperate and Tropical. Interestingly, viral diversity seems to be highest in the polar regions, although there are more types of hosts to infect in warmer waters.

Co-author Ahmed Zayed, a research scientist in the microbiology department at OSU, said: "Viruses, when it comes to diversity, don't really care how cold the water is. that near the poles, many viruses are able to compete for the same host."

After identifying a likely host for the ocean virus, the team determined that about 1,200 viruses could be involved in carbon "exporting". It is the process by which carbon is extracted from the atmosphere, introduced into marine organisms and then "exported" to the deep sea, when those organisms sink to the seafloor after death.


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