A new, mystery virus, with genes never seen before in any life form, has been uncovered in Brazil, scientists say. The Yaravirus, which was named after Yara, a mythological Brazilian water goddess, was found in Lake Pampulha, an artificial lagoon in the city of Belo Horizonte, according to a new research paper on BioRxiv.
Scientists with France’s Aix Marseille University and Brazil’s Federal University of Minas Gerais determined that more than 90 percent of the Yarvirus’ genes had never been identified in other viruses.
“Most of the known viruses of amoeba have been seen to share many features that eventually prompted authors to classify them into common evolutionary groups,” the authors wrote, adding that the new virus “carries an important number of previously un described genes.”
Adding to the mystery, it’s unclear when and where the virus originated and evolved, researchers said.
“It would be necessary to isolate new viruses similar to Yaravirus to improve our analysis and try to define their origin,” Jônatas Abrahão, an associate professor at Federal University said.
The new virus — which is only 80 nanometers in diameter, or about 0.1% the thickness of a human hair — has the ability to infect other amoebas. But there’s no indication that the virus is a risk to humans, researchers said.
“If we consider all known viruses by now, we can say that most of them do not represent any threat for our health,” Abrahão said, adding that they’re still “extremely important in the environment.”
The news of the discovery comes after the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, was recently uncovered in central China, leading to a public health emergency as it spread to thousands of people within two months.