-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Raw sewage contains
thousands of undiscovered viruses, some of which could affect human
health, a new study suggests.
Viruses are everywhere, but only about 3,000 distinct viruses
have been identified worldwide.
In this study, researchers looked for the genetic signatures of
viruses present in raw sewage in North America, Europe and Africa.
They detected the signatures of 234 known viruses representing 26
different virus families, which makes raw sewage home to the most
diverse collection of viruses ever documented.
Known viruses detected in raw sewage included human pathogens
such as human papillomavirus, which can cause genital warts and
cervical cancer, and norovirus, which causes stomach flu. There
were also viruses associated with rodents and cockroaches, viruses
from plants and viruses that prey on bacteria.
But most of the genetic signatures belonged to unknown viruses,
many of which play unknown roles in human health and environmental
processes, according to study editor Michael Imperiale of the
University of Michigan.
While some of the unknown viruses from humans may be harmful,
others may be benign or even helpful, he said.
The study was published Oct. 4 in the online journal
The researchers plan to look for viruses in other environments
around the world.
"I think this is going to be the tip of the iceberg of how many viruses are out there," Imperiale said in a journal news release. "I think the ocean is going to top raw sewage by orders of magnitude," although viruses won't be found in such densities as they are in sewage.
The University of California Museum of Paleontology has more
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