Science and Technology

LAIST researchers involved in the discovery of new virus

The researchers Ricardo Santos and Sílvia Monteiro collected waste water samples that allowed to observe the crAssphage virus in Portugal.

The LAIST researchers Ricardo Santos and Sílvia Monteiro were part of a study published on 8th July, by Nature Microbiology Magazine. This study has investigated the origin and evolution of a virus called crAssphage, which may have coevolved with human lineage. The study shows that the virus was found in the sewage of more than one-third of the world’s countries. More than 115 scientists from 65 countries across the 6 continents participated in this study. LAIST was the only Portuguese laboratory invited to be part of this project. The researchers Ricardo Santos and Sílvia Monteiro played a key role. “The researchers who led the consortium are aware of our work. They know that we have done a lot of work on bacteriophages [virus] and on fecal contamination in water”, explains Sílvia Monteiro. “We collected wastewater samples in national territory and carried out lab treatment, and then we sent the results to the coordinators of the project”, recalls Ricardo Santos.

The study began about 3 years ago and the results revealed that the makeup of the virus could vary depending on which country and city someone resides. “The Portuguese viruses are different from Spanish viruses, although we are just next door”, says Sílvia Monteiro. “The study also allows us to understand how it coevolved with human lineage”, adds Ricardo Santos.

The virus crAssphage reproduces in bacterial cells, not in human cells. “We couldn’t isolate this virus but we detected it living on the human body in large quantities, which draw researchers’ attention”, says Sílvia Monteiro.

This virus will be able “to help detecting the origin of contaminated sources, which is very important for climate changes issues and lack of safe water”, explains Ricardo Santos. In addition, the virus can be used in phage therapy, that is, to treat bacterial infections.

Sílvia Monteiro and Ricardo Santos are proud to have been involved in this study. “It was a very rewarding experience to be part of this global consortium”, says Silva Monteiro. “In the future, another studies can be carried out based on the results of this study”, stresses Ricardo Santos. “We are assured that LAIST will continue to be part of this study in smaller consortia that are about to be formed”, he adds.