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A Modular Virus?

NPR's Goats and Soda blog reports on a new paper in Cell Host & Microbe that appears to show a new kind of virus unlike anything researchers have ever found before.

The virus, discovered by a team at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, is called Guaico Culex and was found in mosquitos. It has five genes, but each gene infects the host separately from the other four. Once the mosquito has been infected with at least four of these five genes, the virus activates, NPR says. The fifth gene is optional, but can control how virulent the infection is, a USAMRIID researcher tells NPR.

University of Sydney virologist Edward Holmes tells NPR that it's almost as if the virus is "dismembered," adding, "It's the most bizarre thing…. If you compare it to the human body, it's like a person would have their legs, trunk and arms all in different places. Then all the pieces come together in some way to work as one single virus. I don't think anything else in nature moves this way."

The researchers are aiming to get ahead of the next potential virus that could infect humans, which Guaico Culex can't yet do, NPR explains.

(HT: The Scientist)