Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Finding a virus is not all bad news


Questions around the movement and population size changes of Kiwis, Tuatara and other New Zealand wildlife over the past hundred years have been continually studied by conservationists and scientists. It now seems the answers might all be found in the viruses that infect them.

Dr Alexei Drummond, from The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Science, has been part of a global research team analysing the genetic sequences of viruses in animals.

This pioneering technique has so far proved to be more effective than the traditional technique of using genetic material directly from the animal.

"Analysing a virus in a group of animals enables us to determine such things as their population size, the population changes, rate of evolution and rate of movement in the past hundred years," says Alexei, who is a lecturer in Computer Science and Bioinformatics.

Studying cougars in the Rocky Mountains in North America the research team took blood samples from 352 cougars along with a GPS reading from where the sample was collected.

The blood samples were then tested for the FIV virus, which is passed from cougar to cougar through physical contact or at birth.

"Viruses evolve rapidly so once you have a common virus such as FIV infecting a large percentage of cougars you are able to analyse its genetic sequence to learn about the cat population.

"Every virus strain has its own unique mutations and as the virus is passed from cougar to cougar these mutations in the virus accumulate, leaving a valuable trail of information about the host animal’s relationships to each other. Because of the way the virus is transmitted, closely related cougars will have closely related viruses. It is for that reason we can use the viruses to track the cats and learn about their recent history."

Once the viruses have been sequenced the data, GPS readings and sample dates were entered into a computer programme, designed by Alexei.

The software analysed the data by comparing the genetic information from the different virus strains with their geographic positions and the date that they were sampled. Together with a mathematical model of how the virus evolves this information was used to estimate the cougar’s population size, the changes in the population over time, rate of evolution and rate of movement.

"This new technique of analysing the genetic data from a virus in an animal rather than the animals own genes has been more effective for short term information and is both cheaper and a far quicker process," says Alexei.

The research team’s findings were recently published in Science, one of the worlds leading science journals for new research.

Bill Williams | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders
24.10.2016 | Baylor College of Medicine

nachricht New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground
24.10.2016 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection

24.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Microbe hunters discover long-sought-after iron-munching microbe

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Seeking balanced networks: how neurons adjust their proteins during homeostatic scaling.

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>