Viruses are evolving just as living things. We have discovered an evolving virus in pigs in Japanese pig farms. It is exciting to witness the evolution. Here is the type of virus we found.
・Dynamic evolution of viruses occurs by genome recombination.
・Our study “witnesses the evolution of viruses.”
・It has the potential to develop into research that can predict the evolution of viruses.
The spread of the SARS-CoV-2 does not stop. Moreover, it has been reported that mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 may increase the pathogenicity. The mutation here refers to a “point mutation.” Thus, several bases in the viral genome are replaced by other bases, resulting in a slight change in protein. However, the reality is that “point mutations” are unlikely to significantly change the virus. For a virus to undergo major transformation, it is necessary to deprive the genomes of other viruses and living things. This is called “recombination.” The virus we discovered is simply a recombinant virus in which a part of the coronavirus genome is inserted into the picornavirus genome. Is this discovery once every 100 years? It may be once in 1000 years. What is so amazing? Picornavirus and coronavirus belong to different “virus families.” I will exaggerate it on purpose, but the picornavirus family (Picornaviridae) and coronavirus family (Coronaviridae) are as different as the cat family (Felidae) and canine family (Canidae). Where is the fun of this research? First, this recombination occurs in pig farms. It is not occurring in the laboratory. Rather, it may be more difficult to experimentally recombine it in the laboratory. Second, we can say that we have encountered a big event once in 1000 years. It is rare for such a researcher to be exhausted. Moreover, the virus that acquired the new functional protein will win the competition for survival in the pig body. Perhaps, the existing virus has survived this process. This live feeling excites the hearts of us researchers.
(Joint research: Azabu University, Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University, University of Texas, Tottori Prefectural Livestock Hygiene Service Center)