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Giant viruses that could hold keys to evolution mystery found in Indian water

Giant viruses that could hold keys to evolution mystery found in Indian water
Over 20 new giant viruses have been discovered in sewage and pre-filtered water in Mumbai, India. They are able to hoard and pass on new genes when hopping from one host to another, a 5-year study claims.

Despite its ominous-sounding notion, there is no evidence that 'Giant Viruses' are causing disease in people. Or at least that is what we all would like to believe!

"There isn't enough evidence to suggest that they are directly linked to infections in humans," Dr. Anirvan, one of the lead researchers on the paper, told India Science Wire.

While posing no danger to humans, the viruses are of great interest to scientists, who believe they could help solve the riddle of evolution.

It is believed that when a virus infects a life form, it harvests genes as it develops and then passes them to other life forms that it infects afterwards. Researchers think the process can ultimately pave the way for the creation of a new species.

It is not that the viruses are 'giant' in the traditional sense of the word, but they are certainly gigantic in the world of microbiology – several times larger than their peers, other microorganisms.

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The biggest of the 'Giant Viruses' unearthed by the researchers is Bandra megavirus (BMV), measuring 465 nanometers. One nanometer is 1,000 times smaller than a micrometer, which is 1,000 times smaller than a millimeter.

The other viruses discovered by the scientists are Powai Lake megavirus (PLMV), Mimivirus bombay (MVB), and Kurlavirus (KUV).

The find was made by researchers from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IITB), who used modern identification and isolation techniques as well as Big Data analysis in cooperation with the Technical University of Denmark to 'catch' over 20 new viruses in samples from pre-filtered water of a household water purifier and from a wastewater treatment plant.

The original research was published in March in the Scientific Reports journal.

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