A color image of the newly discovered alien virus attached to its helper virus.
Photo: Tagidi de Carvalho
For the first time, American scientists noticed the connection of one virus to another. This happened some time after a laboratory announced that a DNA sample sent by a group of researchers at the University of Maryland for sequencing was contaminated with a foreign substance.
Group leader Evan Erel sent another test again, although he got the same results. Although he hoped to obtain the sequence of a “phage” virus, that is, one that infects bacterial cells, he also found a small sequence that did not match anything they knew.
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The results of the second attempt revealed that the team of scientists witnessed two unified viruses: one dependent and the other helpful. According to Eryl, the first not only depends on the host organism to complete its development, but also needs another virus called a “helper.” The dependent virus also needs the other’s help to build its protective shell or replicate its DNA.
However, most of these viruses end up integrating into the host cell after entering it, although what the team of researchers from the University of Maryland observed was very different from what was expected. “This satellite has fine-tuned and optimized its genome to bind to the helper for at least 100 million years,” Erel explained.
Because the satellite virus cannot integrate itself into the host cell’s DNA, the team of scientists hypothesized that for this reason it must be close to its long-term helper. “Because otherwise, how would you ensure that you both get into the dungeon at the same time?” Eryl explained.
These suspicions were confirmed by images obtained by Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) by Tajide de Carvalho, from the University of Maryland.
It was observed in the images that both viruses were indeed together. “When I saw that, I thought: I can’t believe it,” De Carvalho told the Spanish-language RT portal. “No one has ever seen bacteriophages, or any other virus, associated with another virus“.
The researcher also stated that the latest discovery could help better understand how certain types of viruses work that scientists usually think are contaminated with others.
The research was published in the scientific journal Journal of the International Society of Microbial Ecology.
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