Science

Officials Confused After Finding A New Virus That Has No Recognizable Genes

When a large part of the world is reeling under the threat of novel coronavirusm, scientists are still discovering new viruses which are not known to have infected humans yet.

Researchers have named the enigmatic virus Yaravirus, after Yara - or Iara, a water-queen figure in Brazilian mythology. The experts who discovered the Yaravirus named it after Iara or Yara, a lovely mermaid-like from Brazilian belief that would attract sailors to live undersea with her forever. Called Yaravirus, it has a "puzzling origin and phylogeny", they report in a study on the pre-print server bioRxiv.

Part of the study team are virologists Bernard La Scola from Aix-Marseille University in France, and Jônatas S. Abrahão from the Brazil's Federal University of Minas Gerais; who also contributed to the discovery of another viral virus called Tupanvirus found in extreme aquatic environments. Genes with no known evolutionary history are called ORFan genes in microbiology (pronounced orphan), potentially making Yaravirus an nearly entirely orphan microbe.

This team could find some 2,500 circular viruses, out of which, about 600 are new to science.

He revealed that they searched for the Yaravirus' gene signature in thousands of environmental genomic data and found nothing, "indicating how rare this virus is". In addition, the virus itself also does not have a complex genome observed in isolated amoeba viruses, which means that scientists can not classify them into one of the evolutionary groups now available. Of the 74 genes, only six were distantly related to known genetic material from other microorganisms, making it hard for researchers to work out where it came from and to what species it's related to.

"This is one of the reasons why this new virus is so intriguing and we claim that it challenges the classification of DNA viruses", Abrahão said.

The scientists speculate Yaravirus is the first isolated case of an unknown group of amoebal virus.

Two years ago, the pair helped to discover another water-dwelling viral novelty.

But Yaravirus is a much smaller specimen, and less complex.

Scientists in Brazil say they've made a mysterious discovery.

They said: 'Contrary to what is observed in other isolated viruses of amoeba, Yaravirus is not represented by a large/giant particle and a complex genome, but at the same time carries an important number of previously undescribed genes'.

COVID-19 coronavirus jumped from animals in a food market in China to humans, and has since developed the ability to spread between people via a cough or sneeze.



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