UBC Researchers Discover Viruses

UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 11 | Nov. 3, 2005

UBC researchers have discovered five groups of previously unknown viruses living in a wide range of ocean environments.

The discovery, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that a wide range of ocean environments contain previously unknown viruses that are distant relatives of viruses that attack bacteria in the human digestive system.

“On average, a teaspoon of seawater contains a billion viruses, and we know very little about most of them,” says Curtis Suttle, a professor in UBC’s Dept. of Earth and Ocean Sciences and associate dean at the Faculty of Science.

Samples for the study were taken from many parts of the world including the coastal waters of British Columbia, the Gulf of Mexico off Florida and as deep as four kilometres below the surface of the Arctic Ocean.

Suttle’s research continues to focus on the discovery of unknown and unusual viruses in the ocean, understanding their biology, and deciphering their role in the global ecosystem. Stay tuned for more exciting discoveries.