SARS-CoV-2 is just one of nonillions of viruses on our planet, and scientists are rapidly identifying legions of new species.
Mya Breitbart has hunted novel viruses in African termite mounds, Antarctic seals and water from the Red Sea. But to hit pay dirt, she has only to step into her back garden in Florida. Hanging around her swimming pool are spiny-backed orbweavers (Gasteracantha cancriformis) — striking spiders with bulbous white bodies, black speckles and six scarlet spikes that make them look like a piece of medieval weaponry. Even more striking for Breitbart, a viral ecologist at the University of South Florida in St Petersburg, was what was inside. When she and her colleagues collected a few spiders and ground them up, they found two viruses previously unknown to science.
Although we humans have been focused on one particularly nasty virus since early 2020, there are legions of other viruses out there waiting to be discovered. Scientists estimate that there are about 1031 individual viral particles inhabiting the oceans alone at any given time — 10 billion times the estimated number of stars in the known Universe.
It’s becoming clear that ecosystems and organisms rely on viruses. Tiny but mighty, they have fuelled evolution for millions of years by shuttling genes between hosts. In the oceans, they slice open microorganisms, spilling their contents into the sea and flooding the food web with nutrients. “Without viruses,” says Curtis Suttle, a virologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, “we would not be alive.”
There are just 9,110 named species listed by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV), but that’s obviously a pitiful fraction of the total. In part, that’s because officially classifying a virus used to require scientists to culture a virus in its host or host cells — a time-consuming if not impossible process. It’s also because the search has been biased towards viruses that cause diseases in humans or organisms we care about, such as farm animals and crop plants. Yet, as the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us, it’s important to understand viruses that might jump from one host to another, threatening us, our animals or our crops.
Over the past ten years, the number of known and named viruses has exploded, owing to advances in the technology for finding them, plus a recent change to the rules for identifying new species, to allow naming without having to culture virus and host. One of the most influential techniques is metagenomics, which allows researchers to sample the genomes in an environment without having to culture individual viruses. Newer technologies, such as single-virus sequencing, are adding even more viruses to the list, including some that are surprisingly common yet remained hidden until now. It’s an exciting time to be doing this kind of research, says Breitbart. “I think, in many ways, now is the time of the virome.”
In 2020 alone, the ICTV added 1,044 species to its official list, and thousands more await description and naming. This proliferation of genomes prompted virologists to rethink the way they classify viruses and helped to clarify their evolution. There is strong evidence that viruses emerged multiple times, rather than sprouting from a single origin.
Even so, the true range of the viral world remains mostly uncharted, says Jens Kuhn, a virologist at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland. “We really have absolutely no idea what’s out there.”
A group of researchers proposed an optimized electroforming strategy to achieve a bioinspired nano-holed TiO2 coated Ti6Al4V alloy, according to a study published in the journal ACS Applied Material Interfaces. Near-infrared (NIR) energy plays a critical part [...]
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 2.8 million Americans experience antibiotic-resistant infections each year; more than 35,000 die from those infections. To address this critical and worldwide public health [...]
Scientists at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Northwestern Medicine have identified natural extracellular vesicles containing the ACE2 protein (evACE2) in the blood of COVID-19 patients that can block infection from [...]
Scientists at Northwestern Medicine and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have identified natural nano-bubbles containing the ACE2 protein (evACE2) in the blood of COVID-19 patients and discovered these nano-sized particles can [...]
Pioneering Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, developed by experts at University of the West of Scotland (UWS), is capable of accurately diagnosing Covid-19 in just a few minutes. The groundbreaking program is able to detect [...]
Antimicrobial resistance poses a significant threat to humanity, health leaders have warned, as a study reveals it has become a leading cause of death worldwide and is killing about 3,500 people every day. More [...]
The Necessity of Novel Antiviral Materials With the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) being highly infectious and transmissible, the need for novel antiviral materials that can decrease viral activities has become paramount. Preparation procedures [...]
Individuals living with Type 1 diabetes must carefully follow prescribed insulin regimens every day, receiving injections of the hormone via syringe, insulin pump or some other device. And without viable long-term treatments, this course [...]
Researchers from the University of Sydney Nano Institute and School of Chemistry have revealed that tiny gas bubbles – nanobubbles just 100 billionths of a metre high – form on surfaces in unexpected situations, [...]
Innovative researchers have investigated the potential of incorporating a gelatin methacryloyl hydrogel functionalized with synthetic nanoclay laponite to improve the delivery of osteoblast derived extracellular vesicles for increased bone repair. This research has been [...]
A couple of essential biomolecules play a key role in the process of blood clotting. One of these is a protein called fibrinogen. It is often given to those who have experienced heavy bleeding, [...]
Nanoemulsions are a relatively new technology that has found significant use for delivering functional chemicals such as micronutrients, flavorings, bioactive molecules, and antimicrobial agents into food and beverage products. This article focuses on applying [...]
Researchers at Penn Medicine have discovered a new, more effective method of preventing the body's own proteins from treating nanomedicines like foreign invaders, by covering the nanoparticles with a coating to suppress the immune [...]
Bioinspired by tunicates and mussels, a Korean research team has created a “bomb-like” anticancer therapeutic agent that only destroys cancer cells. Schematic diagram of the mechanism of action of photoactivatable adhesive nanobombs made with [...]
(Reuters) - “Long COVID”, where symptoms of COVID-19 persist for months after an initial infection, could be emerging as a chronic disease in Finland, Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru said [...]