Saturday, 22 September 2012

Genome-Invading Retroviruses Have a Nasty Surprise for Koalas: Serious Pathological Impact for Centuries

ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2012) — By integrating themselves into the germ line of their host, retroviruses change the genetic code of their host. The only known case where this process can be currently observed is in Koalas. As an international team of scientists from Australia, Europe and North America just found out, this process may take longer than expected, with the virus continuing to have a serious pathological impact on the host which may go on for centuries.

These findings have been just published online in Molecular Biology and Evolution.

"The process by which a retrovirus invades the host germ line appears to be quite drawn out in this case, so that the koala population has suffered the strongly pathological effects of the virus for many generations during the process of retroviral endogenisation," said Alfred Roca of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of the authors of the study. Koala retrovirus is associated with Chlamydia infection and leukemia in modern koala populations. Given the similarity between ancient and modern koala retrovirus (KoRV) sequences, ancient KoRV would have caused similar pathologies.


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