First virus-eating organism discovered

(ORDO NEWS) — Since viruses are found absolutely everywhere, it is inevitable that there will be organisms that will introduce them into their diet, such is nature.

But John DeLong of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln wanted to find out if such a diet could support the physiological growth of individuals and the growth of the population of such a community.

“They (viruses – ed.) are made of really good stuff: nucleic acids, lots of nitrogen and phosphorus,” DeLonge says. “Surely something would learn to eat this really good stuff.”

To test the hypothesis, DeLonge and his team collected pond water samples, isolated various microbes, and then added large amounts of chlorovirus, a freshwater resident that infects green algae.

Over the next few days, the team monitored populations of viruses and other microbes to see if the latter were eating the former.

And, of course, it turned out that one particular microbe feeds on viruses – Halteria. In water samples where there were no other sources of food for the cilia, the population of Halteria increased by about 15 times in two days, and the level of chlorovirus decreased by 100 times. In control samples without the virus, Halteria did not grow at all.

In subsequent tests, the team tagged the DNA of the chlorovirus with a fluorescent dye and found that the Halteria cells soon began to glow. This helped confirm that Halteria was indeed consuming viruses.

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