Virus Hunters - USF Breitbart Lab
Created on September 17, 2021
Explore the world of viruses within Tampa Bay Florida
Florida Manatees have great immune systems, but when their bodies become weak due to cold stress in winter they can be infected with papillomavirus. Papillomavirus causes wart-like tumors to grow on the body.
White spot syndrome virus (WSSV) is very deadly to shrimp. WSSV can be spread from frozen bait shrimp to live shrimp, making it dangerous to shrimp farms and natural environments.
Pacific oysters can be infected by a deadly virus, called Ostreid herpesvirus 1 (OsHV-1). Don’t worry, you can’t catch the virus if you eat oysters. Scientists are working on breeding disease-resistant oyster lines, which will not die from the virus.
Reoviruses can infect many animals, plants, insects, and fungi. Callinectes sapidus Reovirus 1 (CsRV1) infects blue crabs in the wild and in soft shell crab aquaculture. In lab experiments, the infections from CsRV1 are always fatal.
Sea star-associated densovirus (SSaDV) is a virus that, for many years, was thought to cause sea star wasting disease, which causes sea stars to fall apart and die (see photo). SSaDV is now thought to live within many sea stars, without causing disease.
Sea star wasting disease - Wikipedia
Turtlegrass virus X (TVX) is the first virus to be discovered in Florida’s seagrasses. TVX is related to viruses that infect land grasses. TVX was discovered in Tampa Bay!
Virus-like particles found in turtlegrass. PC: Tony Greco
Iridoviruses infect fish, causing serious disease that usually leads to death. To battle the spread of this virus, many fish farmers (aquaculturists) give their fish vaccines.
Birds can get sick with a flu virus, just like humans. Influenza A subtype H5N1 strain HPAI A – AKA “bird flu” - affects many birds every year. American white pelicans, which spend the winter in Florida, have been known to get very sick from this flu strain. Don’t worry, like most animal viruses, your chances of getting sick from a bird are very low.
Mangrove trees have been used for medicine in Indian cultures for many years, leading scientists to research their abilities in the lab! Many studies have found that mangroves have antiviral compounds, which could potentially be used to treat viral infections in humans and animals.
Copepods are tiny, but the viruses that infect them are even tinier! The CRESS DNA viruses that infect copepods are 400,000x smaller than copepods. (40 nm circovirus, 1 mm copepod).
There are no described viruses known to infect Karenia brevis so far. Our lab is currently studying them to understand their potential role in ending or preventing red tides.
We are virus hunters!
Viruses are the most abundant biological things in the ocean. Every drop of seawater has about 500,000 viruses in it! Most viruses in the oceans infect bacteria, which are the most numerous living cells. We call these viruses bacteriophage or phage for short. Remember that we are surrounded by viruses, but most viruses in your life do you no harm! Sometimes they can even help you. Check out our Phage Heroes Activity for more information.
Phage infecting bacteria cell (colorized). PC: Tony Greco