It is practically impossible to know how many viruses live in the world, as well as their individual characteristics. However, an international group of researchers discovered 132 thousand new types of RNA viruses. That is, of the same type as SARS-CoV-2, responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most viruses do not pose a risk to human health. But the structure of some seems designed to intervene and integrate into human cells and modify the DNA. Thus they would sabotage defenses and enter the body with the aim of multiplying. When they succeed, they cause diseases that, in many cases, lead to death. For example the Spanish influenza of 1918, AIDS, SARS, Ebola and Covid-19
According to research published in the journal Nature on January 26, 2022, the discovery was made thanks to the Serratus computer tool. With this, about 5.7 million biological samples collected from different public databases around the world during the last 15 years were analyzed. The work came to multiply by ten the number of RNA virus species, described before the publication of the article.
Serratus, developed by the researchers themselves, made it possible to sift through more than 10 million gigabytes of sequencing data quickly. In addition, the investigation, launched in the spring of 2020, revealed, among other things, the existence of more than 30 new species of coronavirus.
Likewise, this research is an innovative proposal to identify the amount of virus in the world. Sequence analysis remains computationally expensive, particularly the assembly of short reads into contigs, which limits the breadth of samples analyzed. Serratus, is based on alignment, which is considerably cheaper than assembly and allows the processing of massive data sets.
Knowing the virome of the Earth is essential for the management of the following pandemics. For this reason, the researchers consider it a milestone to have carried out this research. Now future research will have direct access to 883,502 sequences which contain RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP), including the RdRP of 131,957 new RNA viruses. However, despite the impressive number of new viruses discovered, the researchers assume that it is only a small part of the existing ones. They consider that it is a fraction which does not exceed 0.01 percent of viruses in the world.