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Sea Microbes Roundup

November 24, 2006

Scientists are using new techniques to identify and count viruses in the ocean.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
An ocean of viruses. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In a bucket of seawater, there are more viruses than there are humans on earth. And now scientists report in the journal PloS Biology that there are hundreds of thousands of varieties of these viruses. Researchers isolated the DNA in water samples from around the world. Using a new technology called pyrosequencing, they could estimate how many unique species that DNA represented. Despite their bad reputation, most viruses are beneficial and help control populations of bacteria.

And speaking of bacteria, scientists report in the online journal Nature Chemical Biology on a new method to produce anticancer compounds from bacteria found in sea squirts. By inserting genes from the sea squirt bacteria into laboratory bacteria, and causing specific mutations to these genes, the researchers can produce a whole library of novel compounds that may help fight cancer in humans.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.