Thursday, June 29, 2017

Abundant Viruses Discovered in All the Oceans of the Planet

A group of scientists from several research centres and international universities led by Manuel Martínez García, from the University of Alicante Research Group in Molecular Microbian Ecology has discovered forty-four of the most abundant new viruses in all the Earth's oceans. The finding has been achieved thanks to the application of cutting-edge techniques that mix flow cytometry and genomics and molecular biology techniques. 

The technique developed by the researchers has revealed some of the most abundant viruses on a planetary level, especially on the surface of all oceans. "This finding would allow the discovery of emerging pathogenic viruses, which are impossible to cultivate in the laboratory due to technical difficulties. In this way, the technique gives us the genomic information that each virus carries, so we know what virus it is", as explained by UA researcher Manuel Martínez García.

Photographic assembly that simulates a "single virus" isolated.

Credit: University of Alicante 

The findings appeared 23 June 2017, in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Up to date, there were hints, but it was not known which some of the most abundant viruses in the oceans of the planet were. This study sheds light on this issue and gives way to the study of other ecosystems. "With this technology, we open the door to deciphering the terrestrial viriosphere," according to Òscar Fornas, one of the researchers involved and head of the Flow Cytometry Unit at Pompeu Fabra University and Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona. 

 "Not only does it serve to discover new viruses or see the ecology of large groups of viruses in the samples studied, but also sets the basis for studying the different viruses present in a particular ecosystem.. In this regard, the human body is a particular ecosystem and this is where much of the future of this project or possible emergent projects lies."

Now, after detecting them in aquatic environments, researchers have been applying it with human samples, such as saliva.

Martínez García stated that the achievement is that "a single virus is separated from the virus set". The process happens to break the capsid and then copies of the genome are made using molecular biology techniques. After that, "we can sequence DNA and with that, we access genetic information" to know 'who is'.

Dr. Manuel Martínez García, on the right, leads the project together with Dr. Óscar Fornas, expert in flow cytometry

Credit: University of Alicante 

"It is the first time that the genomic study of a single-virus particles has been performed efficiently," Fornas said, whose unit has been responsible for separating each virus particle one by one.

The article "Single-virus genomics reveals hidden cosmopolitan and abundant viruses" is the conclusion of the research study led by Manuel Martínez García, from the University of Alicante Molecular Microbial Ecology Group in collaboration with Dr. Josefa Antón Botella, coordinator of the group; the group of Evolutionary Genomics of the Miguel Hernández University, with Dr. Rodríguez Valera; The Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in Barcelona, with Drs. Josep Maria Gasol and Silvia Acinas; the Pompeu Fabra University, with with Dr. Oscar Fornas; as well as two American research groups from Ohio University and Marino Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.

Contacts and sources:
Citation: Martinez-Hernandez F, Fornas O, Lluesma M, Bolduc B, Cruz MJ, Martínez Martínez J, Antón J, Gasol J, Rosselli R, Rodríguez-Valera R, Sullivan MB, Acinas S and Manuel Martinez-Garcia. “Single-virus genomics reveals hidden cosmopolitan and abundant viruses”. Nature Communications. 2017
DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS15892.  

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