Intelligent Design

Something else to worry about?: Viruses stealing our genes

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Influenza virus | Credit: © Kateryna_Kon / stock.adobe.com
Influenza virus illustration (stock image).
Credit: © Kateryna_Kon / stock.adobe.com

A new study promises to unveil “a novel mechanism that allows viruses to produce unexpected proteins:

Like a scene out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” a virus infects a host and converts it into a factory for making more copies of itself. Now researchers have shown that a large group of viruses, including the influenza viruses and other serious pathogens, steal genetic signals from their hosts to expand their own genomes.

This finding is presented in a study published online today and in print June 25 in Cell. The cross-disciplinary collaborative study was led by researchers at the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research in the UK. …

Researchers say the next part of their work is to understand the distinct roles the unsuspected genes play. “Now we know they exist, we can study them and use the knowledge to help disease eradication,” said Dr. Marazzi. “A large global effort is required to stop viral epidemics and pandemics, and these new insights may lead to identifying novel ways to stop infection.”

The Mount Sinai Hospital, “Viruses can steal our genetic code to create new human-virus genes” at ScienceDaily

Paper. (open access)

That might explain why they sometimes seem to act clever when they actually aren’t.

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