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Researchers publish the genetic sequence of 1,000 marine viruses

15 January 2014 Asociación RUVID

A research team from the University Miguel Hernández in Elche (Spain), led by Microbiology Professor Francisco Rodríguez Valera, has published an article with the genetic sequence of over 1,000 marine viruses in the journal "PLoS Genetics". This is the largest contribution in one article to the knowledge of marine viruses, in this case, from the Mediterranean.

During the study, pioneering sequencing techniques have been applied, similar to those used for the sequencing of the human genome, and the researchers have been able to describe over 1,000 genomes of these marine viruses. The members of this research team have spent years studying Mediterranean microbes near Alicante, an area that has become one of the best known places at this level in the world.

This knowledge allows a better understanding of the biological functioning of the ocean, which occupies 75 % of the surface of the Earth. In addition, the methodology used will allow biologists worldwide further research of these unknown microbes and probably increase the chances of discovering new antibiotics and substances of pharmacological interest.

Marine viruses are one of the great mysteries of science. In open sea, where there are almost no nutrients, there are 10 million viruses per millilitre of water. In fact, marine viruses are the most abundant marine organisms and not only because of their numbers. Its estimated biomass is the equivalent of 75 million copies of blue whale. Despite their small size, in line their combined length is about 100 times the size of the Milky Way. They are one of the largest stores of genetic diversity of the planet and so far little was known of them due to the difficulties of growing them in the laboratory.

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