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Several “vampire viruses” were recently identified in soil samples from Maryland and Missouri, marking the first time these viruses have been found in these locations.
For years, researchers have been aware of the existence of these unsettlingly-named viruses. However, it is only recently that evidence of their presence has been found in the United States.
Vampire viruses survive by preying on other viruses and using their resources to replicate. They occur when a bacteriophage attaches to a soil-based virus and utilizes its resources for its own survival.
Researchers from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Washington University in St. Louis have identified a “vampire virus” that can cause the host virus to enter a dormant state.
According to them, although vampires can eliminate harmful viruses that affect crops and livestock, they can also eliminate beneficial viruses necessary for the soil’s well-being and growth.
The team mentioned that they have successfully separated the viruses within the past few days.
Tagide deCarvalho, the lead author of the study from UMBC, expressed her disbelief upon seeing the results.
No one has ever witnessed a bacteriophage or any other type of virus attaching itself to another virus.
The research was printed in the Journal of the International Society of Microbial Ecology.