'Virus hunter' in Iceland explores geothermal hot springs for answers

In partnership with The European Commission
'Virus hunter' in Iceland explores geothermal hot springs for answers
Copyright euronews
By Julian GOMEZ
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What's it like to work as a virus hunter? In this week's Futuris, Euronews' Julian Lopez goes to Iceland to find out.

In this week's episode of Futuris, Euronews' Julian Lopez goes to Iceland to meet a 'virus hunter' who is working in the country's geothermal hot springs to discover viruses that can help develop new products in the biotechnology and molecular biology fields.

Elísabet Eik Guðmundsdóttir is from the Matís research institute. She explained her work as she showed Julian around the site.

"I am collecting samples for the Virus-X project to isolate and extract viruses and viral DNA from viruses that infect bacteria living in this hot spring environment.

"In terms of biological hazards, it is not dangerous at all, because the viruses and the bacteria they infect, they are not active in humans; they will not infect me. The work can be dangerous, in terms of the fact that you are handling very hot water and walking in geothermal regions that can be hazardous. But biologically no.

"Now I am collecting a little bit of water with samples from the sampling site to measure the pH.

"We have selected these sampling sites for their environmental conditions, mainly temperature and pH. We are looking for conditions somewhere between 60ºC and 90ºC in temperature, and pH around about neutral, or slightly alkaline.

"The main challenge for our project Virus-X and for geothermal regions is the viral count. The viral counts are very low in the hot springs. A lot of our methods are well established with other types of samples, particularly with marine samples. But the viral count in these environments is around 3 magnitudes lower. So getting enough DNA from these samples to allow deep sequencing and then further processing for cloning, etc, and producing the enzymes, that's the main challenge of this work," she said.  

Watch the interview in the player above.

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