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Mysterious Virus With Never-Before-Seen Genes Discovered in Brazil

Scientists named it after a mermaid who lured soldiers underwater to their death.

  • Most of Yaravirus’ genes have never been seen described before.
  • It does not appear to be a giant virus.
  • Scientists suggest it could be an unknown type of amoebal virus.

As the world is still trying to keep the China-born coronavirus from creating more damage, scientists have discovered another mysterious virus from a lake in Brazil.

The team of scientists explained their findings in a pre-print research paper and describes the virus as having “a new lineage of amoebal virus with a puzzling origin and phylogeny.”

It was termed as Yaravirus, named after Yara, a water queen character in Brazilian mythology who lured soldiers underwater to their death.
They found the virus at Lake Pampulha, an artificial lake in Belo Horizonte.

Virologists Bernard La Scola and Jônatas S. Abrahão, who are part olf the team’s senior members, were also instrumental in the discovery of Tupanvirus, a water-dwelling, giant virus living in extreme acquatic habitats.

The Yaravirus, which is made up of small 80 nm-sized particles, does not appear to be a giant virus. But its genome is seemingly unique.

According to the paper:

“Most of the known viruses of amoeba have been seen to share many features that eventually prompted authors to classify them into common evolutionary groups.

“Contrary to what is observed in other isolated viruses of amoeba, Yaravirus is not represented by a large/giant particle and a complex genome, but at the same time carries an important number of previously undescribed genes.”

More than ninety percent of the Yaravirus’ genes have never been described before, according to the team. Only six genes are found to have resemblances to viral genes that are already documented in public scientific databases.

For now, scientists can only speculate on the true nature of the Yaravirus but they suggest that it could be the first isolated case of unknown variety of amoebal virus. They also suggested that it could be a distant type of giant virus that may have evolved into a smaller form.


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