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Chinese scientists discover 1,445 new RNA viruses

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-24 17:10

BEIJING -- Chinese scientists have discovered 1,445 new RNA virus species, which is expected to facilitate future studies in virus evolution and the origins of life.

The research was led by a team of scientists at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the findings published online in the journal Nature on Thursday.

The discovery of the new virus species will challenge current rules in classifying viruses, said Zhang Yongzhen, researcher with CDC's National Institute for Communicable Disease Control and Prevention.

The team found the new viruses by studying more than 220 invertebrate species, a wide range of creatures, including insects, that account for 95 percent of the world's animals, Zhang said.

Some of the new viruses can be classified as new virus families, given their differences to known virus species, Zhang said, adding the discovery enriches diversities of RNA viruses.

The new research has also revealed the co-evolution of viruses and hosts -- cells that harbors viruses -- as well as the way hosts switch viruses as they evolve, which is likely to revolutionize people's understanding of the origins of life, said Xu Jianqing, professor at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at Fudan University.

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