A new form of virus was discovered 8.9 kilometres below sea level by a group of scientists from China and Australia who were investigating the Pacific Ocean. In sediments retrieved from the western Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, they discovered the virus.
The virus, which the team is referring to as Suviridae (or “Siphoviruses”), is a member of a hitherto undiscovered family of viruses that are found across the seas. Additionally, it is a bacteriophage known as “vB_HmeY_H4907,” which indicates that it can only infect bacteria to reproduce itself and cannot infect people.
The hadal zone, the deepest region of the ocean at 6 to 11 kilometres below sea level, is where the virus was discovered. On Wednesday, the journal Microbiology published the team’s results.
‘The affect bacteria’
“The hadal trench is the planet’s least explored and the most mysterious environment, and it is the deepest habitat for life on Earth’s surface,” stated study author Min Wang, virologist at the Ocean University of China, in conversation to the American Society for Microbiology.
“Our understanding of hadal viruses has been greatly limited by the scarcity of isolated viruses in the hadal trenches.”
“This study reported the discovery of a temperate phage…isolated from surface sediment from the Mariana Trench at a depth of 8,900 metres. To our best knowledge, it is the deepest isolated siphovirus from the ocean.”
According to the researchers, the virus shares genetic characteristics with its host and is a lysogenic phage, which means that it inserts its genetic material into the bacterium without typically killing it. Instead, both the virus and the bacteria proliferate together.
The researchers stated that they want to continue investigating the molecular relationships between deep sea phages and their hosts.
“Extreme environments offer optimal prospects for unearthing novel viruses,” added Wang.