Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Yaravirus: Scientists discover ‘strange’ virus with 74 genes in Brazil


Rayyan Alhassan
Rayyan Alhassan is a 30-year-old graduate of Journalism and Mass Communication at Sikkim Manipal University, Ghana. He is the acting Managing Editor at the Daily Nigerian newspaper, a position he has held for the past 3 years. He can be reached via [email protected], or www.facebook.com/RayyanAlhassan, or @Rayyan88 on Twitter.
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Scientists have discovered a new virus in a lake in Brazil, named ‘Yaravirus’.

The virus, named after a mythological mermaid, Yara, who lured soldiers underwater to their death, has left scientists ‘puzzled’ because it doesn’t appear to be related to any other viruses in the world.

Researchers found over 90 percent of Yaravirus genes have never been seen before, making it wholly unique.

Recall that china, amongst others, are currently fighting coronavirus, which was first discovered in December 2019, and killing thousands and infecting over 44,500.

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The coronavirus jumped from animals in a food market in China to humans and has since developed the ability to spread between people via a cough or sneeze.

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It is feared the coronavirus has the potential to infect more than 60 per cent of the population if containment methods fail, based on a top Hong Kong medical officials predictions.

Meanwhile, the Yaravirus was documented by scientists in January after an unexpected encounter with it at Lake Pampulha, an artificial lake in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte.

They sequenced the virus genome to look at its DNA, finding 74 genes in total, with only six being in literature record while the other 68 have never been seen before, known as orphan genes.

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However, a search of over 8,500 genetic material from across the globe in a scientific database offered no clues as to what Yaravirus might be closely related to.

The team, led by Brazil’s Federal University of Minas Gerais, said: “Yaravirus expands our knowledge of the diversity of DNA viruses.”

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They said the Yaravirus was taken from a single-celled creature called amoeba, which lives in damp environments.

A publication on the server bioRxiv said “the Yaravirus is the first isolated case of an unknown group of amoebal virus with a puzzling origin and phylogeny.

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“Most of the known viruses of amoeba have been seen to share many features that eventually prompted authors to classify them into common evolutionary groups”.

The scientist however noted that the virus doesn’t appear to pose any threat to humans as it cannot transfer to humans – only between amoeba.

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