News & Events

Climate change may be culprit in Antarctic fish disease outbreak

June 30, 2022

Climate change might be behind an unusual disease outbreak among Antarctic fish. In a new study, University of Oregon (UO) researchers join Arizona State University virologist Arvind Varsani to investigate a parasitic outbreak in the antarctic. For about a decade, UO biologists John Postlethwait and Thomas Desvignes have been visiting the West Antarctic Peninsula. They study a unique group of fish that has adapted to the harsh polar environment. But on a...

Machine learning IDs mammal species with the potential to spread SARS-CoV-2

November 16, 2021

Back and forth transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between people and other mammals increases the risk of new variants and threatens efforts to control COVID-19. A new study, published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, used a novel modelling approach to predict the zoonotic capacity of 5,400 mammal species, extending predictive capacity by an order of magnitude. Of the high-risk species flagged, many live near people and in COVID-19 hotspots. A major bottleneck to predicting high-risk...

Myxoma's viral leap into Iberian hares sheds light on how viruses swap genetic material

November 6, 2019

Viruses are all around us – they are present in most environments, lying in wait for the optimal host, and they even reside within our bodies, whether we know it or not. While hopping from species to species, these viruses can swap genetic material with each other and sometimes even with the host. In fact, over the course of millions of years, viral DNA has been integrated into human chromosomes. It is estimated that about 100,000 pieces of viral DNA have merged with human DNA, making up...

The Kombucha Culture: Microbial communities in this fermented drink can teach us about cooperation and competition

September 3, 2019

In today’s health-conscious community, kombucha is all the rave. Its appeal comes from its accessibility and alleged health benefits, which range from introducing probiotics to killing deleterious bacteria in the human body.  But as is the case for many things in science, there is more to kombucha than meets the eye – literally. The microscopic microbes inhabiting this fermented concoction could offer insight into how microbial communities interact, more specifically on how...

ASU researchers discover more than 100 viruses in honeybees

July 31, 2019

With bee populations on the decline, researchers have a growing interest in the viruses that may be affecting them. However, with the exception of a few well-known viruses, very little is known about virus populations in bees. A team of researchers in Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, led by a collaboration between the labs of life sciences professors Arvind Varsani and Brian Smith, decided to change that by conducting the first ever mass genomic study...

Major class of viruses reveals complex origins

July 31, 2019

Comparing a living cell to a virus is a bit like comparing the Sistine Chapel to a backyard dog house. Lacking the intricate machinery of living cells, viruses represent biology stripped down to an extreme level. They are the true minimalists of the biological world. Nevertheless, the field of virology is brimming with unanswered questions about these architecturally simple, yet mysterious entities. In new research, Arvind Varsani, a molecular virologist at Arizona State University, joins a...

Biodesign receives $1.5 million to develop early warning system for flu outbreaks

July 24, 2019

As winter draws near, the microbial world of viruses is poised to attack. Viral, non-living entities have the ability to infect you and spread to others, jumping from host to host to host. Unchecked, viral infections can spread through families and communities like wildfire. With $1.53 million in support from the National Library of Medicine, three research teams from Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute are bringing their distinct areas of expertise to answer the question,...

Plant viruses may be reshaping our world

July 17, 2019

The community of viruses is staggeringly vast. Occupying every conceivable biological niche, from searing undersea vents to frigid tundra, these enigmatic invaders, hovering between inert matter and life, circumnavigate the globe in the hundreds of trillions. They are the most abundant life forms on earth. Viruses are justly feared as ingenious pathogens, causing diseases in everything they invade, including virtually all bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. Recent advances in the field of...

Wellbeing Commons symposium highlights the work of the state’s most prominent researchers in virology, immunology, microbiology and infectious disease

June 11, 2019

Arizona State University prides itself on an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to solving some of the world’s most prominent problems. Led by Joshua LaBaer, the executive director of the Biodesign Institute and center director for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics, Arizona Wellbeing Commons (AWC) similarly emphasizes the importance of collaboration by bringing together scientists, doctors, and other partners to better human health. The key to...

Defining Quality Virus Data

December 17, 2018

Microbes in, on and around the planet are said to outnumber the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. The total number of viruses is expected to vastly exceed even that calculation. Arvind Varsani, a researcher in the Biodesign Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics has hunted these elusive entities in far-flung locales, from the Pacific Islands and Amazonian jungles to Antarctic ice floes. In a new report, he joins an international group of researchers attempting to establish more...