Scientists discover the first ‘virovoro’, an organism capable of feeding on viruses

The researchers discovered a species of Halteria (microscopic ciliates) capable of eating only viruses in their daily diet.

Scientists have discovered the first ” virovorous ” organism, capable of feeding exclusively on viruses .

The finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , determines that a species of Halteria ( microscopic freshwater ciliates ) can eat large amounts of chloroviruses that share its habitat.

The first case of virovoria

According to the study led by John DeLong, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this case of virovoria determines that Halteria can only eat these viruses to boost their physiological and demographic growth.

DeLong notes that ciliates on a small shelf can eat “10 billion viruses a day.”

The scientist was already familiar with the ways that chloroviruses can become entangled in a food web. In 2016, the ecologist teamed up with Van Etten and virologist David Dunigan to show that chloroviruses gain access to algae, which are normally enclosed in a genus of ciliates called Paramecia, only when small crustaceans eat the Paramecia and excrete the algae. just exposed.

To date, the researcher has only found literature in a 1980 study indicating that single-celled protists were capable of consuming viruses , but he did not delve further.

What is positive about a virus diet ? According to the finding, they keep nucleic acids, nitrogen and phosphorus in significant quantities for the small ciliates that wish to eat them.

Will there be more in the world?

In the experiment, DeLong put ciliates on generous proportions of chlorovirus from a shelf. The Halteria population grew an average of 15 times every two days, while that of the viruses plummeted up to 100 times in the same time.

To confirm that Halteria was actually consuming the virus, the team tagged some of the chlorovirus DNA with a green fluorescent dye before introducing the virus to ciliates . Sure enough, the ciliated equivalent of a stomach, its vacuole, soon glowed green.

After Halteria , the team has identified other ciliates that can survive by eating only virus, though still without detailed studies.