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A firework of polyomaviruses

It has been more than a decade now that we started working with the lab of Bernhard Ehlers on the diversity of polyomaviruses, a surprisingly neglected group of viruses whose members infect many (if not all) vertebrates. Our collaboration on the topic has proved very fruitful: we discovered a long-suspected but well-hidden human-infecting polyomavirus (Scuda et al. 2011), we unveiled the existence of many distinct evolutionary lineages in nonhuman primates (Leendertz et al. 2011; Scuda et al. 2013; Madinda et al. 2015; Ben Salem et al. 2016) and other mammals (Gedvilaite et al. 2017), we used this phylogenetic diversity as a basis to propose an important update of the taxonomy of the Polyomaviridae family (together with excellent colleagues from the ICTV Polyomaviridae Study Group; Polyomaviridae Study Group of the ICTV 2016) and we investigated the processes that shaped polyomaviral evolution (Madinda et al. 2016)! All good things come to an end, though: Bernhard retired this year after a scientific life devoted to viral discovery. Being the very kind person all those lucky enough to have worked with him know, he decided not to leave the stage without shooting an impressive farewell firework of polyomaviruses whose discovery is reported today in Viruses. He accompanied this departure gift with a thorough reexamination of the annotations of most existing genomes, which he based on new in vitro splicing analyses and extrapolations informed by the family phylogenetic tree. A very complete piece of work you can read there.

Picture credit: Opabinia regalis [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

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