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Biologists have discovered new viruses in the extreme environment of salt lakes

Biologists have discovered new viruses in the extreme environment of salt lakes

Wed Jan 03 15:37:50 CET 2018

Every organism on the Earth probably has its own virus, and often not only one. A team of virologists from the Biology Centre of the CAS have discovered an unusual combination of immediately three viruses inside the cells of the fungus Sodiomyces alkalinus. These are the very first viruses found in fibrous fungi growing in an extremely alkaline environment around several salt lakes in Asia and Africa.

“It is likely that these viruses have been spreading together for a longer time already although we do not know the evolutionary advantage they provide to their hosts,” says virologist Karel Petrzik. No negative effects on the health of the fungus were detected, despite all three viruses being transmitted by the spores of the fungus.

Lenka Hrabáková, Igor Koloniuk and Tatiana Sarkisová from the Department of Virology of the Institute of Plant Molecular Biology of the Biology Centre of the CAS along with colleagues from Holland continue to share in the discovery.

Scientists are gradually coming to the conclusion that the current knowledge of 12–13,000 species of viruses is far less than the famous tip of the iceberg. Most of them come from organisms, which live under conditions that seem “normal” to humans. We know very little of the viruses of those organisms that enjoy an unusual environment, and only a few dozen viruses have been discovered with them so far.

Since the same time already discovered the special case of “nude” fungal viruses  a while ago and intensively deals with the search for new viruses, it seems that we can expect further discoveries in the future.

Prepared by: Biology Centre
Photo: Archive of the Biology Centre