9 New Coronaviruses Species discovered by BC Scientist

A team of researchers led by a university in British Columbia discovered numerous new species of coronavirus, some of which were discovered in unexpected areas such as animal excrement.

The findings were produced by a former UBC post-doctoral research fellow who led an international team in a study of ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequencing data, according to a press release issued by the university on Wednesday.

The Serratus Project, coordinated by Artem Babaian, examined 20 million terabytes of gene sequencing data. According to UBC, this data was derived from 5.7 million biological samples.

We’re entering a new age of knowing the genetic and geographic diversity of viruses in nature, as well as how a diverse range of creatures interact with these viruses, as Babaian stated.

“The hope is we’re not caught off guard if something like SARS-CoV-2—the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19— emerges again … The real goal is these infections are recognized so early that they never become pandemics.”

According to a description of the study published this week in the scientific journal Nature, the samples gathered globally over 13 years contained feces from different species and other sources.

The study team categorized the collection as originating from every continent and ocean and all kingdoms of life.

The scientists discovered roughly ten times more RNA viruses than were previously known, thanks to a very powerful’ supercomputer built by UBC and Amazon Web Services.

A Virus Library links Finds Your Disease

According to the report, the study discovered 132,000 RNA viruses in total. Before the Serratus Project, just 15,000 were known.

During the 11-day investigation, which cost roughly $24,000, the scientists discovered nine new species of coronaviruses.

In terms of what was discovered, the researchers reported that there were several problems in the journal publication.

“An important limitation for these analyses is that the nucleic acid reads do not prove that viral infection has occurred in the nominal host species. For example, we identified five libraries in which a porcine, avian, or bat coronavirus was found in plant samples,” the team said.

The objective is that this study and the Serratus Project database would pave the way for swiftly identifying viral overflow into people, according to UBC. According to the school, the database may also detect viruses affecting animals, crops, and endangered species.

The 32-year-old offered the example of a patient who had an inexplicable fever. He said that the patient’s blood could be analyzed, and the virus causing the fever could be likened to the Serratus Project database of current viruses. You can go through the database in about two minutes and correlate that virus to, say, a camel collected in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, as Babaian added.

He described the study, which began as a “fun” side project on a napkin, as the “most thrilling scientific era of my life.”

“There are two types of fun. Type 1 is smiling and fun. Type 2 is when you’re miserable while doing it but the memory shines, like rock climbing. In many ways Serratus is Type 2 fun. You just kind of have to believe it’s going to work out.”

Tonia Nissen
Based out of Detroit, Tonia Nissen has been writing for Optic Flux since 2017 and is presently our Managing Editor. An experienced freelance health writer, Tonia obtained an English BA from the University of Detroit, then spent over 7 years working in various markets as a television reporter, producer and news videographer. Tonia is particularly interested in scientific innovation, climate technology, and the marine environment.