New Virus Found in the Feces of Pigs

Researchers found a new virus in the feces of pigs that was able to propagate without a host.
Donna Fuscaldo
Pigs on a farm t-lorien/iStock

Viruses need a host to replicate and continue to thrive but a new type of virus was recently found in the feces of pigs.  Even more surprising, researchers discovered it can't infiltrate a host cell on its own. 

A international team of researchers led by  Professor Tetsuya Mizutani, corresponding author on the paper and Director at the Research and Education Center for Prevention of Global Infectious Disease of Animal at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology set out to find out what happens if a virus doesn't have the proper tools to infect an organism and how then does that virus propagate.  


Scientists found this new virus at a pig farm

In trying to answer those questions, the scientists decided to study pig farms, since the process of viruses gaining and losing functions and either dieing or becoming stronger is rampant at these locations. After all, pigs are forced to interact in environments that are considered filthy.  "Recombination among different viral families occurs at pig farms all over the world," Mizutani said in a press release higlighting the results. "These recombinant viruses have the potential to connect with a host in a novel way."

That choice in location to conduct their studies led them to discover a new virus in the feces of pigs. The strange virus is an enterovirus G which the researches said belongs to the Picornaviridae family of viruses. This type of EV-G was deemed to be a "novel defective" variant. Because of its makeup, it couldn't invade a host cell on its own or replicate. Instead, the virus may be able to propagate because it's partnering with a so-called helper virus to get access to the host cell. The researchers said it's not clear what enables this process to happen.  The findings were published in journal Infection, Genetics, and Evolution

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"We may be facing an entirely new system of viral evolution," Mizutani said in the press release. "We are wondering how this new virus came to be, how it infects cells or how it develops a viral particle. Our future work will be on solving this mystery of viral evolution."

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