The Virosphere: Welcome to this new expanding world

The Virosphere: Welcome to this new expanding world

Scientist in laboratory working on experiments on viruses using chicken eggs; a snail is a good example of an invertebrate without a backbone; electron microscope image of bacteriophage virus attached to a bacterial cell  (Source: Wikipedia)
Scientist in laboratory working on experiments on viruses using chicken eggs; a snail is a good example of an invertebrate without a backbone; electron microscope image of bacteriophage virus attached to a bacterial cell (Source: Wikipedia)

Scientists have discovered 1,500 new viruses. Though very small & hard to see, viruses are everywhere.


The Virosphere: Welcome to this new expanding world

Scientists have recently discovered nearly 1,500 new viruses, the largest discovery to date.

An international research team led from Australia and China published an article in the science journal Nature this week with the new results (see here).

Viruses are much more difficult to see than larger microorganisms such as bacteria, which can be seen under a regular microscope.

Because they are so small, scientists were uncertain whether viruses were as numerous and exist everywhere (ubiquitous) as bacteria do.


Because bacteria are a lot larger than viruses, we already know a lot more about bacteria.

Bacteria were among the first forms of life to appear on planet earth and can be found everywhere on earth.

Bacteria inhabit our intestine helping you to digest food, they live in the soil, deep under the earth, at the bottom of the sea, in radioactive waste and even in highly acidic hotsprings.

There is hardly a place on earth where bacteria are not to be found.

There are a million bacteria in a single millilitre of water and in one gram of soil there are about 40 million bacteria.

Lumped together their biomass would exceed all plants and animals on earth. 

Bacteria are very small, only a few micrometres in length, but can be seen with and were first discovered with, an ordinary light microscope, unlike a virus.

Bacteria have many different shapes from spheres to rods and spirals (for more on bacteria see Wikipedia here).


In a first step to unlock the world of viruses (the virosphere studied by virologists) scientists began looking at the viruses that infect invertebraes.

It turns out, viruses have been infecting invertebrae animals for billions of years (watch BBC special on the origin of viruses here).

Invertebrae are animals without a backbone or spine (vertebral column) and this includes insects, spiders and worms, a slippery snail being a particularly good example of an invertebrate.


Viruses are so small and simple that they do not quite qualify as living things.

Everyone knows about DNA, the blueprint of life that makes up our genomes.

Viruses use a different chemical to build their genomes, namely RNA, so new genetic sequencing techniques are needed.

The potential for discovering new viruses with the new technology is great.


In the research project, 220 different species of invertebrae living in the water and land of China were collected.

Many of the viruses discovered in the project did not easily fit into the existing virus family tree, meaning that their discovery was truly new and a contribution to knowledge.

Over time viruses exchange genetic material to create new species. This is another finding of the study

Viruses have been infecting invertebrae for possibly billions of years.

Some invertebrae do carry viruses such as Zika and dengue that can infect humans.

Some diseases such as influenza which infects humans are, in fact, derived from bacteria that infect invertebrae.

The virosphere of identified viruses is set to explode in the future.

This, however, is not a bad thing but will likely help scientists better cope with future viral outbreaks such as Ebola.

Watch the rest of the videos in the course here , This Week in Virology here and  Virus Watch here.

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  • acidic: containing acid, or having similar qualities to an acid - ซึ่งเป็นกรด
  • article (noun): a piece of writing about a particular subject in a newspaper or magazine - บทความ
  • backbone (noun): the main part of something that makes it successful and strong - แกนนำ, กระดูกสันหลัง, เสาหลัก, ที่พึ่ง, เครื่องยึดเหนี่ยว, หลัก, ที่ปรึกษา
  • biomass: natural materials from living or recently dead plants, trees and animals, used as fuel and in industrial production, especially in the generation of electricity - มวลชีวภาพ
  • blueprint: an early plan or design which explains how something might be achieved - แผนงานที่ละเอียด
  • contribution: something that you do that helps to achieve something or to make it successful - ผลงาน,การช่วยเหลือ
  • cope with: to deal successfully with a difficult situation or job - จัดการกับปัญหา แก้ปัญหา
  • dengue: a very serious illness that you get if a mosquito infected with a particular virus bites you. Dengue fever causes fever, headaches, and pain in the joints - ไข้เลือดออก
  • derive: to come or develop from something - กลายมาจาก (ทางภาษาศาสตร์), ได้มาจาก, กำเนิดจาก
  • derive from: to get something from something else - ได้มาจาก
  • digest (verb): the process in the body of making food in substances the body can use - ย่อยอาหาร
  • discover: to be the first person to become aware that a particular place or thing exists - ค้นพบ
  • discovery: an act or the process of finding somebody/something, or learning about something that was not known about before - การค้นพบ
  • exceed: to be more than something; to go beyond a limit - เกินกว่าที่กำหนด
  • exchange (verb): to give one thing and get another - แลกเปลี่ยน
  • exist: to be real; to be present in a place or situation - มีอยู่
  • existing (adj): present now; in use now; used now - ที่มีอยู่
  • explode (verb): blast, blow up, burst - ระเบิด
  • fit: to agree with, match or be suitable for something; to make something do this - เหมาะ,เหมาะสม,สมควร,คู่ควร,สอดคล้อง
  • genetic (adj): connected with genes (= the units in the cells of a living thing that control its physical characteristics) or genetics (= the study of genes ) - เกี่ยวกับพันธศาสตร์,ยีน
  • genome (noun): the total amount of genetic or DNA information in the chromosomes of a living thing - กลุ่มยีนในเซลล์ของสิ่งมีชีวิต, จีโนม
  • identified (verb): named, searched for a discovered - ระบุ
  • infect (verb): to make a disease or an illness spread to a person, an animal or a plant ทำให้ติดเชื้อ - ทำให้ติดเชื้อ
  • influenza (noun): flu, an infectious disease like a very bad cold, that causes fever, pains and weakness - ไข้หวัดใหญ่
  • inhabit (verb): to live in a particular place - อยู่อาศัย
  • insect: any small creature with six legs and a body divided into three parts. Insects usually also have wings. Ants, bees and flies are all insects - แมลง, แมง
  • international: connected with or involving two or more countries - นานาชาติ, สากล, ระหว่างประเทศ
  • invertebrate (noun): any animal with no backbone, for example a worm - สัตว์ไม่มีกระดูกสันหลัง
  • journal: a newspaper or magazine that deals with a particular subject or profession - นิตยสาร, วารสาร
  • knowledge (noun): all the facts that people know about a subject (example: medical knowledge) - ความรู้
  • lump: a solid things, a pile of something - ก้อน
  • microorganism: very small living things such as bacteria and funguses - จุลินทรีย์, เชื้อจุลชีพ, เชื้อจุลินทรีย์, สิ่งมีชีวิตเล็กๆ, สิ่งมีชีวิตเล็กๆ
  • microscopic (adj): extremely small and difficult or impossible to see without a microscope - ซึ่งมีขนาดเล็กมาก
  • numerous: many - มากมาย
  • ordinary: not unusual or different in any way - ธรรมดา, ปกติ
  • outbreak: the sudden start of a disease - การระบาดของโรค
  • particularly: especially, or more than usual - โดยเฉพาะ
  • planet: a large round object in space that moves around a star (such as the sun) and receives light from it - ดาวเคราะห์
  • publish: to make something available to the public through books, magazines, the Internet, etc. - เผยแพร่, จัดพิมพ์
  • qualify: to be of a high enough standard to enter a competition; to defeat another person or team in order to enter or continue in a competition - เข้ารอบ, ทำให้มีคุณสมบัติ
  • radioactive: sending out harmful radiation caused when the nuclei (= central parts) of atoms are broken up - เกี่ยวกับกัมมันตภาพรังสี
  • recently (adverb): not long ago - เมื่อไม่นานมานี้, เมื่อเร็วๆ นี้
  • regular (adj): normal; following a pattern, especially with the same time and space in between each thing and the next - ปกติ, เป็นประจำ, เสมอๆ
  • research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - การวิจัย
  • results (noun): what you get in the end when activity is completed (test results, research results, etc) - ผล
  • single: one only - เดี่ยว
  • slippery: wet, smooth or oily so that it slides easily or causes something to slide - ลื่น
  • snail: a small soft creature with a hard round shell on its back, that moves very slowly and often eats garden plants. Some types of snail can be eaten. - หอยทาก
  • soil: the substance on the surface of the Earth in which plants grow - ดิน
  • species: different kinds of animals -
  • spider (noun): a small creature with eight thin legs. Many spiders spin webs (= nets of thin threads) to catch insects for food - แมงมุม
  • spine: the row of small bones that are connected together down the middle of the back - กระดูกสันหลัง
  • study: a project that looks at some subject in great detail and produces a report to share the information - งานวิจัย
  • to date: until now -
  • ubiquitous: found everywhere, existing everywhere -
  • virologist: a scientist who studies and treats illnesses caused by viruses - นักไวรัสวิทยา
  • virus (noun): a living thing, too small to be seen without a microscope, that causes infectious disease in people, animals and plants - เชื้อไวรัส
  • waste (noun): the useless part that is thrown away after something is used - ขยะ, ของเสีย, ที่ไม่มีประโยชน์, การสูญเสียไปโดยเปล่าประโยชน์, การหมดเปลือง
  • worm: a long thin creature with no bones or legs, that lives in soil - หนอน
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