In a lake in Brazil, researchers have discovered a virus that they find unusual and intriguing. Called Yaravirus, it has a “puzzling origin and phylogeny”, they report in a study on the pre-print server bioRxiv. The Yaravirus infects amoeba and has genes that have not been described before, something that could challenge how DNA viruses are classified.
The researchers found the Yaravirus while looking in the lake for giant viruses that infect amoeba. 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.
Over 90% of the Yaravirus’s genome has not been observed before, the researchers have reported, after using standard protocols for genetic analysis and being unable to find any “classical viral genes”. In other viruses that affect amoeba, the researchers say that there are some similarities in their characteristics that are missing in the Yaravirus. “The amount of unknown proteins composing the Yaravirus particles reflects the variability existing in the viral world and how much potential of new viral genomes are still to be discovered,” they have written.
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The virus does not infect human cells, according to the researchers.
The research paper has been written by multiple authors including virologists from Brazil and France. Although it is only now that the virus has been identified, the researchers believe that it has been present on Earth for ages.
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