A&M-Texarkana scientist presents research on viruses

Dr. Ben Neuman

Dr. Benjamin Neuman, chair of the Biology department at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, recently presented a session on new viruses at the XIVth International Nidovirus Symposium (Nido2017) in Kansas City, Missouri.

The presentation, “Novel nido-like virus genomes associated with eukaryotic intracellular RNA pools,” focused on “new viruses discovered here at A&M-Texarkana by scanning sequence data from spiders, tiny crab-like marine creatures, frogs and a large sea slug,” Dr. Neuman said.

“There is a world of new viruses out there, and new ones keep popping up – whenever anyone reads genetic data from a plant or animal, they will also pick up the viruses inside that organism. As it turns out, the average healthy-looking living thing is infected with around a dozen viruses at a time, most of which are new to science. In this study we were looking for a particular kind of giant virus called a nidovirus, and what we found changes the way we look at this group of viruses,” Dr. Neuman said.

“Before this conference, we thought it was mostly people, farm animals and mosquitoes that catch nidoviruses. These new viruses show that nidoviruses are in most kinds of animals, suggesting that this group of viruses is able to make big evolutionary leaps between very different kinds of hosts.”

Also participating were Khulud Bukhari, Saad T. Mutlk, Hasan S. H. Alrashedi, Ban O. Abdulsattar, all of the University of Reading, UK; Guocheng Shu, Lanying Zhao and Jianping Jiang, all of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu, China; Leonid L. Moroz of the University of Florida, Federica di Palma of The Earlham Institute, Norwich, UK, Nadia Ayoub of Washington & Lee University, Jessica Garb of University of Massachusetts-Lowell and Weilin Sun and Barry Pittendrigh of Michigan State University.

“As part of the conference, I also participated in the ICTV Nidovirus taxonomy study group, where I named 56 new taxonomic ranks including the new virus families Abyssoviridae, Euroniviridae and Tobaniviridae. Before the addition of the three new families, the nidovirus order was comprised of four families.”

The International Nidovirus Symposium is a prominent scientific meeting that focuses on a unique group of viruses infecting a wide range of animal species and humans. Over the past 40 years, the Nidovirus Symposium has evolved into a triennial event that covers all aspects of cutting-edge nidovirus research and technological developments.

The nidovirus order is comprised of four families of positive-stranded RNA viruses, including well-known human pathogens like MERS- and SARS-coronavirus and economically important animal nidoviruses like those causing porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRSV), porcine epidemic diarrhea (PEDV), equine arteritis (EAV), and chicken infectious bronchitis (IBV).

The symposium provides an opportunity for scientists from academia and industry to share their latest research findings, exchange ideas and develop collaborations.

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