A mixed team of researchers from the Swansea University Medical School and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution learned more about viruses present in the sea and on the land and their capability to lead to lethal diseases. They managed to discover new genes which are carried by a large number of big viruses, and the information could pave the way for the development of new drugs which are more efficient at targeting viruses which are specifically linked with human diseases.
The team of researchers surveyed an approximate number of 8,000 virus genomes and discovered that many of newly-discovered giant viruses feature multiple genes which signal the presence of an enzyme known as cytochrome P450.
This type of enzymes appears known to be quite common among bacteria, plants, and animals, but their presence in new viruses is quite surprising, Such a theory was considered unlikely in the past. The lead researcher has stated that the discovery is more important than some may think.
The new study revealed more details on the viruses in the oceans
In the case of animals, P450 enzymes can metabolize drugs, generate steroid hormones, and keep pollutants away. Their role in the case of viruses has remained unknown and but they have been deemed to be different in comparison to P450 enzymes found in other organisms.
The presence of the P450 enzymes, which are considered to be one of the biggest enzyme superfamilies, may also allow researchers to understand more about how chemical effects take place in the sea and the development of human diseases.
Select giant viruses are linked to specific pneumonia types and learning more about the should facilitate the creation of a reliable strategy against the viruses. By targeting these enzymes, the researchers believe that they could kill the viruses before they start to wreak havoc in the human body. However, there is still much to learn about the evolution of the enzymes and the origin of the giant viruses, with the latter being a hot topic. The study was published in a peer-reviewed journal.