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Jan 11, 2018 - Science and innovations
FEFU and FEB RAS researchers discovered new harmful plant viruses in Primorsky Krai

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Four previously unknown plant viruses were discovered in 2017 by researchers from Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) and the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (FEB RAS) in Primorsky Krai. The researchers note that the study of harmful microorganisms—phytoviruses—has serious economic importance: it is related to the issues of agricultural productivity, food security of the country and allows for better understanding the evolution of viruses in general.

Mikhail Shchelkanov, the Head, Microbial Ecology Research Laboratory, FEFU School of Biomedicine, said that a group of Far Eastern researchers described new species of viruses from the genus Nepovirus (Picornavirales, Secoviridae, and Comovirinae): Phryma asiatica Mosaic Virus (PhAMV), DayFlower Mosaic Virus (DFMV), Foenugreek Necrotic Spot Virus (FoNSV), and Capsicum annuum Necrotic Spot Virus (CaNSV). Viruses were found during the revision of strains stored in the Russian collection of East Asia viruses on the basis of the FEB RAS Research Center of Biodiversity.

“The isolation of a new virus is an import event in the world of science,” points out Mikhail Shchelkanov. “The study of phytoviruses is very important both in fundamental and in practical terms. Phytoviruses are adapted to more ancient forms of life, therefore, by studying them, we better understand the viruses of animals. This is also important for strengthening the state food security. Phytoviruses significantly reduce the yield of many crops. For example, we found that 14 viruses infect potato in Primorye. The more we know about the pathogens affecting potato, tomato, aubergine, melon, horticultural and other crops, the more effectively we can fight them.”

The expert added that phytoviruses are special organisms, and specific approaches and technologies are needed to counteract them. There is no vaccine against phytoviruses, and the task of researchers is to look for ways to limit their effect and develop virus-free seed to grow fruit-bearing plants effectively. It is necessary to develop biotechnologies and train young professionals for this purpose.

“Phytoviruses are convenient to study: they are safe for humans, students can easily work with them, and perfect the practical skills in laboratories. We successfully cooperate with FEB RAS in this respect. The university gives young cadres to the Academy, and we get the technology. All this brings serious results, such as the inventions of this year,” said the professor.

Virology is a successful area of activities of the FEFU School of Biomedicine. Researchers of the university as part of an international group identified the epicenters of deadly infections on the African continent in 2014-2017. To combat pandemic threats in the Asia-Pacific region, the Education and Research Department of Molecular Technologies will be opened with the support of Rospotrebnadzor (Russian consumer protection agency) at FEFU in 2018.