The Grapevine

Japanese Scientists Discover New Type Of Virus

Unlike what’s generally classified as the “three domains of life,” which are bacteria, eukaryota and archaea, viruses don’t have cells.

This makes them fundamentally different, and is what makes them hard to classify from a purely biological standpoint. After all, debates as to whether viruses should be classified as a living organism or not has been thrown around endlessly in scientific circles, and sees no end anytime soon.

However, while the question whether viruses are alive or not are murky at best, there’s still a general agreement on what can be classified as a virus. Per scientists, if a particle is made up of genetic material housed in a protective protein container and has the ability to replicate itself after infecting a type of cell, then it’s a virus. Easy enough, right?

At least, it was, until a recent discovery made by Japanese scientists has challenged the notion of what we consider as viruses, and what we generally know about them.

Uncovered by researchers from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) after sifting through pig feces, the new type of virus apparently has no structural proteins of any kind. Per the scientists who discovered it, the virus is a type of enterovirus G (EV-G), and supposedly belongs to the Picornaviridae family.

"The recombinant virus we found in this study has no structural proteins. This means the recombinant virus cannot make a viral particle," Tetsuya Mizutani, a virologist from TUAT, said.

Considered as a “novel defective” variant of the known EV-G virus, the newly discovered virus apparently has unknown flanking genes instead of the usual structural proteins. Per scientists, this means that EV-G type 2 can’t replicate itself, let alone invade a cell on its own.

Per the virologists, EV-G type 2 might have invaded host cells as a helper virus to EV-G type 1.

"Because the type 1 recombinant EV-G was detected in the same faeces sample as the new type 2 recombinant EV-G, this type 1 recombinant EV-G, which belongs to [a] different subtype, might have served as the helper virus," the researchers explained.

"We are wondering how this new virus came to be, how it infects cells or how it develops a viral particle. Our future work will be on solving this mystery of viral evolution,” Mizutani added.

virus Drug resistant infections have been a growing problem in the U.S. and across the globe. Pixabay