Unknown virus discovered in 'throwaway' DNA

A chance discovery has opened up a new method of finding unknown viruses.

In research published in the journal Virus Evolution, scientists from Oxford University's Department of Zoology have revealed that Next-Generation Sequencing and its associated online DNA databases could be used in the field of viral discovery. They have developed algorithms that detect DNA from viruses that happen to be in fish blood or tissue samples, and could be used to identify viruses in a range of different species.

Next-Generation Sequencing has revolutionised genomics research and is currently used to study and understand genetic material. It allows scientists to gather vast amounts of data, from a single piece of DNA, which is then collated into huge, online, genome databases that are publicly accessible.

Dr Aris Katzourakis and Dr Amr Aswad, Research Associates at Oxford's Department of Zoology, initially discovered the new use for the database, by chance. While looking for an ancient herpes virus in primates, they found evidence of two new undocumented viruses.

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