Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Unknown virus discovered in 'throwaway' DNA

Finding new viruses has historically not been an easy process. Cells do not grow on their own, so must be cultured in a laboratory before they can be analysed, which involves months of work. But the Oxford research represents a massive opportunity for the future.

Next-Generation Sequencing has revolutionised genomics research and is currently used to study and understand genetic material. It allows scientists to gather vast amounts of data, from a single piece of DNA, which is then collated into huge, online, genome databases that are publicly accessible.

A chance discovery has opened up a new method of finding unknown viruses. Researchers have revealed that Next-Generation Sequencing and its associated online DNA databases could be used in the field of viral discovery. They have developed algorithms that detect DNA from viruses that happen to be in fish blood or tissue samples, and could be used to identify viruses in a range of different species.


Amr Aswad, Aris Katzourakis. A novel viral lineage distantly related to herpesviruses discovered within fish genome sequence dataVirus Evolution, 2017; 3 (2) DOI: 10.1093/ve/vex016

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle