Scientists in Mumbai have found the presence of giant viruses (GV) in water samples. While giant viruses have already been discovered, this is the first time GVs have been found in India.
Called the Bandra megavirus or Kurlavirus, the virus measures 465 nanometre, which is much larger than some microorganisms. For comparison, most viruses are smaller than bacteria and range from 5nm to 300nm. The Bandra megavirus is the largest GV discovered in India so far. The other virus species discovered are the Powai lake megavirus (PLMV), Mimivirus Bombay (MVB) and Kurlavirus (KUV).
“The study supports the claim that Giant Viruses may exist everywhere, but we have only recently become able to detect them. However, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that they are directly linked to infections in humans,” said Dr Anirvan while speaking to India Science Wire.
The Mimivirus, one of the largest, most complex virus currently known, was found residing within amoebae. It was first discovered in 1992 in a water sample from a cooling tower in England. In 2018, scientists discovered a strain of giant viruses in Brazil called tupanviruses.
Viruses pick up genetic information when they infect a host. The genes can be passed onto other hosts the virus infects, allowing transfer of genes. The new genes may give the organism an advantage, and over time, may give rise to the evolution of a new species. However, the order in which GVs acquire genetic sequences from their hosts is difficult to determine and is currently not known.
The study team, which included Dr Anirvan Chatterjee, Rajesh Yadav and Professor Kiran Kondabagil (IIT-Bombay) and Thomas Sicheritz-Pontén (AIMST University, Malaysia), published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.
(With inputs from India Science Wire)