Our planet is teeming with mysterious microbes. Now, in the waters of an artificial lake, scientists may have discovered one of the most mysterious of all: a brand-new virus with genes that have never been seen before.
A couple of years ago, the group collected water samples from the creeks of Lake Pampulha, an artificial lagoon in the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil, in search of giant viruses — or those with massive genomes — that infect single-celled organisms called amoebas. But when the team went back to the lab and added these samples to amoeba cells to try to catch giant viruses in their attempt to infect the cells, they found a much smaller intruder.
“It was really a big surprise since so far we only know giant viruses infecting amoebas, not small viruses,” said senior author Jônatas Abrahão, an associate professor in the microbiology department of the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. This new virus was only around 80 nanometers in diameter, but all amoeba-infecting viruses that we know of to date are much larger, at more than 200 nanometers, Abrahão told Live Science.