I dont know why so many people bag on Pittsburgh.
Maybe people who grew up In The Big City dont like it, but to a country bumpkin like me, it is a magical city full of hot boys and glitter. *shrug*
Its also home to some of the best virology work in the country. Example:
One major point I want to get across to the general public through this blog is “Viruses are not always ‘bad guys’.”
Yes, of course, some viruses make us sick. And those are the ones we notice, obviously.
Long-time readers of ERV know that we can domesticate these ‘bad guys’. We can turn viruses that make us sick, into viruses that can treat diseases (both acquired and genetic).
But if we are only studying viruses that make us sick (or our crops, or our livestock, etc), when only a very small percentage of viruses do make us sick, we are missing out on being able to domesticate the vast, vast majority of viruses out there.
Think of it this way. Lets say you want to build a house. You look into your toolbox and pull out the most obvious tool, the one sitting on top, lets say a screwdriver. You then have to work REALLY HARD to build that house, because you have to adapt that screwdriver to perform all the functions you need.
You spend all of this mental energy and time trying to use a screwdriver to cut wood… but what if you had a table saw in that tool shed? You just didnt look.
You spend all of this mental energy and time trying to use a screwdriver as a hammer… but what if you had a hammer in that tool box? You just didnt look.
We are spending a lot of mental effort and energy turning viruses into creatures that can perform the functions we are interested in… but what if there are viruses out there that are better suited for the jobs we need accomplished? We just arent looking?
Papers like this demonstrate that we *should* be looking.
At this time, about 3,000 different viruses are recognized, but metagenomic studies suggest that these viruses are a small fraction of the viruses that exist in nature. We have explored viral diversity by deep sequencing nucleic acids obtained from virion populations enriched from raw sewage. We identiﬁed 234 known viruses, including 17 that infect humans. Plant, insect, and algal viruses as well as bacteriophages were also present. These viruses represented 26 taxonomic families and included viruses with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA), double-stranded DNA (dsDNA), positive-sense ssRNA [ssRNA], and dsRNA genomes. Novel viruses that could be placed in speciﬁc taxa represented 51 different families, making untreated wastewater the most diverse viral metagenome (genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples) examined thus far. However, the vast majority of sequence reads bore little or no sequence relation to known viruses and thus could not be placed into speciﬁc taxa. These results show that the vast majority of the viruses on Earth have not yet been characterized. Untreated wastewater provides a rich matrix for identifying novel viruses and for studying virus diversity.
… What could we do with an entire Home Depot at our disposal?