Viruses are everywhere, maybe even in space

January 18, 2018, Portland State University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Viruses are the most abundant and one of the least understood biological entities on Earth. They might also exist in space, but as of yet scientists have done almost no research into this possibility.

Portland State University biology professor Ken Stedman and colleagues are trying to change this through their article "Astrovirology: Viruses at Large in the Universe," published in the February 2018 issue of the journal Astrobiology. In this call to arms, the authors state that NASA and other agencies should be looking for viruses in liquid samples from Saturn and Jupiter's moons, develop technology to detect viruses in ancient deposits on Earth and Mars, and determine if Earth viruses could survive in space.

"More than a century has passed since the discovery of the first viruses," said Stedman, who teaches at PSU's College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. "Entering the second century of virology, we can finally start focusing beyond our own planet."

Stedman argues that since there are more viruses on Earth—10 to 100 times more than any other cellular organism—the same could be true on other planets and moons. Viruses also appear to be extremely ancient, may have been involved in the origin of life and have probably been involved in major evolutionary transitions on Earth.

"With this paper, we hope to inspire integration of virus research into astrobiology and also point out pressing unanswered questions in astrovirology, particularly regarding the detection of biosignatures and whether could be spread extraterrestrially," Stedman said.

Explore further: Research shows some viruses can infect even after major mutations

More information: Aaron J. Berliner et al, Astrovirology: Viruses at Large in the Universe, Astrobiology (2018). DOI: 10.1089/ast.2017.1649

Related Stories

Virus discovery could impact HIV drug research

November 20, 2014

A research team led by Portland State University (PSU) biology professor Ken Stedman has unlocked the structure of an unusual virus that lives in volcanic hot springs. The discovery could pave the way for better drugs to ...

Tracking viruses back in time

September 6, 2010

How long have viruses been around? No one knows. Scientists at Portland State University have begun taking the first steps toward answering this question.

Influenza picking up in U.S., predominantly A(H3N2)

December 8, 2017

(HealthDay)—Influenza activity was low during October 2017 but started increasing in November, with influenza A, predominantly A(H3N2), most commonly identified, according to research published in the Dec. 8 issue of the ...

Glassy coating keeps viruses happy in harsh environments

November 18, 2013

What's a virus to do when it finds itself in an inhospitable environment such as hot water? Coating itself in glass seems to not only provide protection, but may also make it easier to jump to a more favorable location to ...

Recommended for you

Scientist launches hunt for Loch Ness 'monster DNA'

June 17, 2018

Tales of a giant creature lurking beneath the murky waves of Loch Ness have been around for more than 1,500 years—and one academic hopes the marvels of modern science can finally unravel the mystery.

Research shows diet shift of beluga whales in Alaska inlet

June 16, 2018

Beluga whales in Alaska's Cook Inlet may have changed their diet over five decades from saltwater prey to fish and crustaceans influenced by freshwater, according to a study by University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers.

Flatworms found to win most battles with harvestmen

June 15, 2018

A trio of researchers with Universidade de São Paulo has documented evidence of flatworms and harvestmen engaging in battle in the forests of Brazil. In their paper published in the Journal of Zoology, M. S. Silva. R. H. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.