New mystery virus that scientists can't even recognize found in Brazil

James Marshall
February 14, 2020

Scientists have identified an enigmatic virus whose genome seems to be nearly entirely new to science, populated by unfamiliar genes that have never before been documented in viral research. They are expected to reveal further details about the virus as its research progresses. According to the virologists Bernard La Scola of the University of Aix-Marseille in France and Jônatas Abrahão of the Federal University of Minas Gerais of Brazil (who is studying the unusual virus itself), about 90 percent of the genes found in the Yaravirus They are orphan genes. Because of the Yaravirus's small size, it was unlike other viruses that infect amoeba and they named it as a tribute to Yara, the "mother of waters" in the mythological stories of the Tupi-Guarani indigenous tribes.

Reporting the new discovery in bioRxiv, a biological sciences website, the researchers wrote: "We report the discovery of Yaravirus, a new lineage of amoebal virus with a puzzling origin and phylogeny". The team is now investigating the various features of the novel virus and how it affects the ecosystem.

Two years ago, the pair helped to discover another water-dwelling viral novelty: Tupanvirus, a giant virus found in extreme aquatic habitats.

COVID-19 coronavirus was first discovered in December 2019, and since, has killed more than 1,000 people and infected over 44,500.

For finding circular viruses, the team isolated virus from numerous human tissues and from other animals and then screened them. It does not have a single giant particle or a complex genome but carries a significant number of previously undescribed genes. A Negative staining of an isolated Yaravirus virion. Scale bar 200nm. c Detailed image of an incorporated Yaravirus particle in the interior of an endocytic vesicle. Two different regions can be distinct: an electron-lucent region where the virions are assembled as empty shells and a second region formed by several electron-dense points where the genome is packaged inside the particles. However, the gene sequences are unrecognizable, making the virus unique and weird.

Yaravirus can't infect humans, but the possibility isn't totally removed. For a start, it can not transfer to humans - only between amoeba. Only six genes out of the 74 were found to match the genes already recorded in public databases.

A virus can synthesize proteins and replicate DNA, and there are various mechanisms in how they infect hosts. "We seem to be discovering new viruses all the time".

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