Researchers in China discover new virus lurking at the bottom of the world’s deepest ocean trench
- New virus from sediment in the Mariana Trench – group of islands south of Japan
- Virus infects and replicates inside bacteria that are usually found in deep ocean
- Read more: Will the next pandemic come from the Arctic? Ancient virus that has lain frozen in Siberian permafrost for 48,500 YEARS is revived
Chinese researchers have discovered a new virus on the ocean floor of the deepest place on earth.
The pathogen was found in sediment five miles below sea level in the Mariana Trench, the lowest point on earth in the Pacific Ocean, and south of Japan.
‘Wherever there’s life, you can bet there are regulators at work,’ Min Wang, a marine virologist at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao who led the research, said. ‘Viruses, in this case.’
The virus is a bacteriophage – which means ‘bacteria eater’ – and survives by infecting and replicating inside bacteria.
The species are usually harmless to human cells as they do not recognize them as their prey.
The pathogen was found in sediment five miles below sea level in the Mariana Trench, the lowest point on earth in the Pacific Ocean, and over 120 miles east of the Mariana Islands
They published their report in Microbiology Spectrum.
The virus was found in sediment 29,200 feet below sea level in the Mariana Trench which reaches nearly 36,100 feet at its lowest point.
The bacteria, which is infected by the virus, is usually found in sediment deep in the ocean and in hydrothermal vents – or openings on the seafloor that release hot water streams, according to the report.
‘To our best knowledge, this is the deepest known isolated phage in the global ocean,’ Wang said.
According to Wang, an analysis of the virus’s genetic material suggests the existence of a viral family in the ocean that was not known of before.
It also gives new insights into deep-sea phages and phage-host interactions, Wang said.
The new virus is being identified as vB_HmeY_H4907, and the team’s analysis shows it has a similar structure to its host.
The virus is lysogenic, meaning it invades and replicates inside the host, and doesn’t usually kill the bacterial cell.
The bacteria which is infected by the virus is usually found in sediment deep in the ocean and in hydrothermal vents – or openings on the seafloor that release hot water streams, according to the report
The research team looked for viruses in bacterial strains that were collected and isolated by another team under Yu-Zhong Zhang, also a marine virologist at the Ocean University of China.
Wang said the researchers’ findings lead to new questions and research around how viruses in harsh, secluded environments stay alive, and how they co-evolve alongside their hosts.
The team wants to continue investigating interactions between deep-sea viruses and their hosts, and searching for new viruses in other extreme places.
‘Extreme environments offer optimal prospects for unearthing novel viruses,’ Wang said.
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