Since the appearance of COVID-19, the virus has gained a lot of notoriety among the general public. These tiny intracellular parasites of living organisms are the most numerous biological entities on Earth, causing disease in humans, livestock and crops. They have been studied in detail along with model bacterial viruses (phages).
But not all are harmful; Most viruses do not harm us and infect bacterial cells; Some even live inside our bodies and we are not even aware of it. Others can fight more dangerous viruses.
Now, for the first time in the world, scientists from Tel Aviv University (TAU) have discovered nearly 100,000 new types of viruses that were hitherto unknown to science, without even specifying which organisms they can attack. Huh., These viruses were discovered in global environmental data from samples from soil, oceans, lakes and various other ecosystems.
The researchers believe their discovery could aid in the development of antimicrobial drugs and protection against fungi and parasites harmful to agriculture.
What is the difference between DNA and RNA virus?
The diversity and role of RNA viruses in microbial ecosystems is less understood than that of DNA viruses. Recently, however, metatranscriptome studies (large-scale RNA sequencing of entire microbial communities) have uncovered an enormous amount of previously undetected RNA viruses.
DNA viruses, such as poxviruses, package themselves with their polymerase machinery so that they can replicate directly in the host’s cytoplasm., RNA viruses infect cells by injecting RNA to transcribe and replicate viral proteins into the cytoplasm of host cells.
The study was led by PhD student Uri Neri, under the direction of Professor Uri Gofna of TAU’s Shamunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research, Wise Faculty of Life Sciences. The research was carried out in collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) of the Department of Energy and France’s Institut Pasteur.
The research was published in the prestigious journal Cell under the title “Global RNA virome expansion reveals diverse bacteriophage clades” and included data collected by over 100 scientists from around the world.
Viruses are genetic parasites, meaning they must infect a living cell in order to replicate their genetic information, produce new viruses, and complete their infection cycle.
According to Neri, Study used new computational techniques to extract genetic information collected at thousands of sampling points around the world: ocean, soil, sewage, geyser and others. Researchers developed a sophisticated computational tool that differentiates between the genetic material of RNA viruses and hosts and uses it to analyze big data. This discovery allowed the researchers to reconstruct how viruses went through different adaptation processes during their evolutionary development to adapt to different hosts.
The researchers were able to identify the suspected viruses infecting various pathogenic microorganisms, thus opening up the possibility of using viruses to control them.
“The system we developed allows for in-depth evolutionary analysis and understanding of how different RNA viruses have evolved over evolutionary history,” Goffana explained.
“Furthermore, compared to DNA viruses, the diversity and function of RNA viruses in microbial ecosystems are not well understood. In our study, we found that RNA viruses are not uncommon in the evolutionary landscape and, in fact, they are some In ways DNA is no different from viruses. This opens the door for further research and a better understanding of how viruses can be harnessed for use in medicine and agriculture.”