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Global Virome Project is hunting for more than 1 million unknown viruses

The search for microbes lurking in animal hosts aims to prevent the next human pandemic

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2:53pm, February 22, 2018
rhesus macaque

GOING VIRAL  The diversity of viruses carried by such animals as rhesus macaques (one shown) hints at the number of viruses capable of infecting humans that are yet to be discovered.

To play good defense against the next viral pandemic, it helps to know the other team’s offense. But the 263 known viruses that circulate in humans represent less than 0.1 percent of the viruses suspected to be lurking out there that could infect people, researchers report in the Feb. 23 Science.

The Global Virome Project, to be launched in 2018, aims to close that gap. The international collaboration will survey viruses harbored by birds and mammals to identify candidates that might be zoonotic, or able to jump to humans. Based on the viral diversity in two species known to host emerging human diseases — Indian flying foxes and rhesus macaques — the team estimates there are about 1.67 million unknown viruses still to be discovered in the 25 virus families surveyed. Of those, between 631,000 and 827,000 might be

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