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News > Brazil

The 'Yaravirus', a Mysterious Harmless Organism Found in Brazil

  • Representation of the microorganism discovered in Lake Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 2020.

    Representation of the microorganism discovered in Lake Pampulha, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 2020. | Photo: Twitter / @Complex

Published 12 February 2020

About 90 percent of its genes have not been recorded by the existing genetic data banks.

The scientific journal BioRxiv informed that Brazilian and French scientists discovered the "Yaravirus," a new harmless microorganism with 90 percent of its genetics unknown.


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Named after the Brazilian Indigenous mythology's mermaid-queen Yara, this virus was found inside Pampulha, an artificial lake located in Belo Horizonte city in Minas Gerais.

Its discovery was published by the French researcher Bernard La Scola (Aix-Marseille University) and the Brazilian scientist Jonatas Abrahao (Federal University of Minas Gerais).

According to the Minas Gerais' Institute of Biological Sciences, this protozoan "does not represent risks" to humans because "it does not infect any type of vertebrate."

The scientists have only identified 10 percent of its genes because the genetic material does not correspond to the information of the existing data banks.

"The discovery of the Yaravirus has caused great repercussions for its small size and for having 90 percent its genes not recognized. One of the leaders of this finding is virologist Jonatas Abrahao, from the Department of Microbiology at ICB-UFMG."

The Yaravirus is exclusive to amoebas that inhabit lagoons, rivers, ponds, swimming pools, and aqueduct systems.

According to the La Scola-Abrahao study, the virus may be the first Acanthamoeba spp (unidentified) of the genus of Amoebozoas protists isolated from the large DNA nucleocytoplasmic group (NCLDV).

"This discovery has the scientific community puzzled," outlet Complex commented and recalled the words of the Harvard Medical School postdoctoral fellow Ayaz Najafov who explained that the Yaravirus means "a whole new treasure chest of previously-unseen biochemical processes?!"

Due to President Jair Bolsonaro's recent cut for scientific research, scientist Abrahao and La Scola seek the support of abroad institutions to identify the Yaravirus unknown genes.

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