No place on our planet is immune to viruses. Scientists accustomed to searching for viruses in extreme places like polar environments or the deep ocean have discovered a new virus never before identified in the Mariana Trench, the deepest ocean trench known to date on our planet. If these abysses descend up to 11,000 meters under the ocean, this virus vB_HmeY_H4907 was discovered at a depth of 8,900 meters.
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For a long time, researchers thought that this place was far too deep and the conditions far too extreme in terms of low temperatures to harbor this type of virus. "The Mariana Trench, the world's deepest hadal habitat, is home to a variety of unique microorganisms that have adapted to its extreme conditions of low temperatures, high pressure, and nutrient scarcity," the team behind the discovery said in their study published in the journal Microbiology Spectrum. According to Dr. Min Wang, the marine virologist at the Chinese Oceanic University who authored the study, "This is the siphovirus isolated deepest in the ocean."
A discovery that will make it possible to make great advances
According to the study, vB_HmeY_H4907 is a bacteriophage, that is, a virus that infects bacteria. It would infect Halomonas meridiana, without killing it and would even evolve with this bacterium. As the cell divides, viral genetic material is copied and passed on. This discovery allows researchers to learn more about how these life forms survive in such hostile and remote environments.
The researchers made this discovery by looking for viral genetic material in samples of bacteria collected from the oceans. Their analysis of the genes of this new bacteriophage suggests that it is part of a viral family that was previously unknown.
Following this discovery, the researchers plan to learn more about the interactions between deep-sea viruses and their hosts, but also to look for viruses in other extreme locations, "which would help expand our understanding of the virosphere," says Dr. Min Wang. "Extreme environments offer interesting prospects for discovering new viruses," he concludes.