Scientists discover mysterious virus with no recognisable genes

Bizarre organism found in amoebae in Brazil is named after mythical sea siren

Viruses are some of the world’s smallest life-forms and the jury is still out as to whether they actually are life-forms at all, as they cannot live or reproduce outside a host organism.

A new form of virus is currently causing scientists to scratch their heads after it emerged the organism had almost no recognisable genes.

This mysterious virus collected from amoebae in an artificial lake in Brazil was considerably smaller than the viruses usually known to infect amoebae.

The team named it Yaravirus, after Yara, also known as Iara, meaning mother of all waters and representing a beautiful mermaid-like figure from Brazilian mythology who would lure sailors underwater to live with her forever.

When the scientists sequenced the yaravirus genome the process of determining the complete DNA sequence which makes up an organism they discovered over 90 per cent of it was formed of the genes had never been found before.

Writing in the open access bioRxiv biological sciences website, the team which examined the virus said: Here we report the discovery of Yaravirus, a new lineage of amoebal virus with a puzzling origin and phylogeny.

JAnatas AbrahAPound o, a virologist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, in Brazil, said the results were indicative of just how much we still need to understand about viruses.

Some of Yaravirus’s genes look like those in a giant virus, but it is still unclear how the two are related, Professor AbrahAPound o told ScienceMag.org.

He and his colleagues are now investigating other features of the novel virus’s existence.

One scientist unconnected with the study suggested the findings represented a whole new treasure chest of previously-unseen biochemical processes.

Source: Ministry of Information, Lebanon

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