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A virus that lives in the human gut has just been discovered, and to the surprise of scientists, it can be found in about half the world’s population, according to a new study.
While it’s not yet clear exactly what the virus does, scientists are eager to find out whether it promotes health or influences susceptibility to certain conditions, said Robert Edwards, a bioinformatics professor at San Diego State University and one of the researchers who worked on the study.
The researchers first uncovered hints of the virus after analyzing DNA from fecal samples of 12 people. They found a cluster of Viral DNA that all the samples had in common, Edwards said.
Like microscopic machine shops, some viruses assemble their parts with the help of tiny motors. Now, researchers have figured out the structure and workings of the natural molecular motors in one virus.
The discovery could lead to new pharmaceutical approaches to combat diseases, including herpes, which is caused by a virus that possesses a similar type of motor.
Unlike bacteria and other forms of life, viruses are unique in that they cannot reproduce or grow outside of a host cell. So figuring out precisely how they thrive inside us is a key to controlling or eradicating them.