In a new study, researchers have discovered a previously unknown viral family in human lung and mouth specimens.
The new virus is called Redondoviridae and is the second-most common DNA virus. It is linked to severe critical illness and gum disease.
The research was conducted by a team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the study, the team analyzed samples from human lungs to sequence RNA and DNA in free-floating viral particles.
They used a wide-ranging survey of viral sequences as a starting point to compare samples with known viral sequences in public databases.
They found whole genomes in the sample, which they recognized as a completely new human virus.
The team believes they may have discovered a virus because the sequence of DNA building blocks allowed them to recognize these proteins as distant relatives of known viral molecules.
After that, they searched for the new virus in additional DNA sequence data.
After scanning more than 7,000 samples in databases, they found 17 complete redondovirus genomes and many more with partial sequences.
The team suggests that this family of small, circular DNA viruses is linked to periodontitis, which is inflammation of the gums.
They also searched for it directly in patient samples and found that redondoviruses were particularly abundant in the lungs of critically ill patients.
Currently, the team is growing redondovirus in the lab to examine basic questions about its biology and more clinical questions about its role in diseases.
They hope their new finding could benefit treatment for people with lung disease and dental disease.
The senior authors of the study are Frederic D. Bushman, PhD, chair of the Department of Microbiology, and Ronald G. Collman, MD, a professor of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care.
The study is published in Cell Host Microbe.
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