A groundbreaking study of the virosphere of the most populous animals — those without backbones such as insects, spiders and worms and that live around our houses — has uncovered 1445 viruses, revealing people have only scratched the surface of the world of viruses — but it is likely that only a few cause disease.
“This groundbreaking study re-writes the virology text book by showing that invertebrates carry an extraordinary number of viruses — far more than we ever thought,” Professor Holmes said.
“We have discovered that most groups of viruses that infect vertebrates — including humans, such as those that cause well-known diseases like influenza — are in fact derived from those present in invertebrates,” said Professor Holmes, who is also based at the University’s multidisciplinary Charles Perkins Centre.
The study suggests these viruses have been associated with invertebrates for potentially billions of years, rather than millions of years as had been believed — and that invertebrates are the true hosts for many types of virus. Paper. (paywall) – Mang Shi, Xian-Dan Lin, Jun-Hua Tian, Liang-Jun Chen, Xiao Chen, Ci-Xiu Li, Xin-Cheng Qin, Jun Li, Jian-Ping Cao, John-Sebastian Eden, Jan Buchmann, Wen Wang, Jianguo Xu, Edward C. Holmes, Yong-Zhen Zhang. Redefining the invertebrate RNA virosphere. Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature20167More.
One wonders whether viruses’ main role is to transfer genetic information, and only incidentally to cause disease.
See also: Why “evolution” is changing? Consider viruses
The Scientist asks, Should giant viruses be the fourth domain of life? Eukaryotes, prokaryotes, archaea… and viruses?
Are viruses nature’s perfect machine? Or alive?
Follow UD News at Twitter!