New paper in Nature Communications discovers unusual giant virus infecting deadly human parasites

The single-celled organism Naegleria fowleri ranks among the deadliest human parasites. Researchers around Matthias Horn and Patrick Arthofer from DOME, in an international collaboration, have discovered viruses that infect this harmful microbe. These so-called Naegleriavirus are giant viruses and were isolated from a waste water treatment plant in Klosterneuburg near Vienna. The team details their findings in Nature Communications.

Naegleriaviruses are taken up mistakenly as a food source but destroy their amoeba hosts within just few hours. They exhibit a structure familiar in giant viruses, infecting host cells via a so-called stargate structure that facilitates DNA entry. Within hours, a structure known as a virus factory forms inside the amoeba cell, replicating viral genetic material outside the nucleus and assembling hundreds of new virus particles. To keep the host cell alive during this process, Naegleriaviruses likely use special proteins that suppress the cell's natural immune response, preventing premature cell death. Only after successful viral replication does cell destruction and virus release occur.



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© Patrick Arthofer and Florian Panhölzl