Viruses have been the focus of attention this year. And especially one. Sars-CoV-2 has put the world’s population in homes, made it sick, devastated the global economy and killed more than a million people.
After all, it’s nice to see that something can hack them. Thus, scientists have just announced the discovery of two organisms that eat viruses.
“Our data show that many protist cells contain DNA from a wide variety of non-infectious viruses, but not bacteria, strong evidence that they feed on viruses rather than bacteria,” said author Ramunas Stepanauskas, director of the Center for Single Genomics. Cell at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, in a communique. “This was a big surprise, because these findings go against the prevailing views today about the role of viruses in the marine environment.”
research, published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, identifies two single-celled organisms, both found off the coast of Maine, that researchers say can swallow viruses.
The researchers collected ocean water samples and then sequenced the genetic material from 1,698 organisms they found in them. In two types of tiny creatures, known as coanozoans and picozoans, they found evidence of viral genetic code. And because none of them are vulnerable to viral infection, scientists believe they have “tasted” of viruses.
As far as scientists know, this is rare in the Earth’s ecosystem. Although there is a substantial biomass of viruses, especially in the oceans, the two organisms found in the new research are the only known ones that consume them for nutrition.
“Viruses are rich in phosphorus and nitrogen and could be a good supplement to a high-carbon diet, which could include cellular prey or high-carbon marine colloids,” said Julia Brown, also from Bigelow Laboratory and co-author of the paper. “Removing viruses from the water can reduce the number of viruses available for infecting other organisms, while transferring organic carbon from virus particles above the food chain.”