Algae Virus Found in Healthy Human Throats

 Scientists from Johns Hopkins and the University of Nebraska have
discovered an algae virus never before seen in the throats of healthy
people that may subtly alter a range of cognitive functions including
visual processing and spatial orientation in those who harbor it. A
report on the team’s findings is published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Yolken and colleagues stumbled upon the algae virus unexpectedly
while analyzing the microbial population of the throats of healthy
humans for a non-related study. Investigators obtained throat swabs and
performed DNA analysis designed to detect the genetic footprints of
viruses and bacteria. To their surprise, the researchers say, they
discovered DNA matching that of Acanthocystis turfacea Chlorella virus
1, or ATCV-1, known to infect green algae. Green algae include more than
7,000 water-dwelling organisms that resemble plants but belong to a
separate biologic kingdom. They are commonly found in aquatic
environments like ponds, lakes and the ocean.
 Forty of 92 participants in the study tested positive for the algae
virus. The group that harbored the virus performed worse overall on a
set of tasks to measure the speed and accuracy of visual processing.
While their performance was not drastically poorer, it was measurably
lower, the researchers said. For example, people who harbored the virus
scored, on average, nearly nine points lower on a test that measured how
quickly they could draw a line between sequentially numbered circles on
a piece of paper. Viral carriers also scored seven points lower, on
average, on tests measuring attention.
To further elucidate the effects of the virus, the investigators
infected a group of mice and analyzed their performance on a set of
tests designed to measure the rodent equivalent of human cognitive
function. Animals infected with the virus exhibited deficits similar to
those observed in humans. Infected animals had worse recognition memory
and spatial orientation than uninfected mice. 

No comments: