Newly discovered hepatovirus could help develop hepatitis A treatments
Studying viruses in wildlife can give scientists interesting and useful insights into human pathogens. In this case, researchers discovered a novel picornavirus in harbor seals, which has been named phopivirus.
As it is related to hepatitis A virus, the scientists can study the phylogenetic relatedness across the genome. This is a specific and apparently quiescent tropism for hepatocytes. It is important to the structural conservation in a crucial functional region of the IRES, or type III internal ribosomal entry site. It is also a codon usage bias that shows consistency with HAV.
HAV shows a significant number of cases every year in areas that have low socioeconomic status. HAV’s origin is not yet known, and there is no non-primate HAV-like viruses that have been discovered as of today. Finding this HAV-like virus within seals is a breakthrough for researchers, as it suggests the diversity and progression of the viruses may reach further than originally thought. The discovery may also offer insight into the pathogenicity and origin of HAV.
The scientists anticipate many more discoveries to stem from this research.