UK researchers discover viruses in kelps that could damage biofuel prospects

August 10, 2017 |

In the UK, scientists are warning the UK kelp biofuel industry to beware of viruses. Whilst known to infect certain types of seaweed, a new study published in the ISME Journal is the first to describe viruses in kelps, which are important both ecologically and commercially.

Researchers from the Marine Biological Association (MBA) and University of Plymouth examined Laminaria and Saccharina kelps commonly occurring around the British Isles, and which include target species for the emerging kelp biofuel industry. They detected viruses by searching at the molecular level for their DNA ‘fingerprint’, and their presence was confirmed by observation of symptoms of infection using conventional and electron microscopy.

In the field, these viruses were found to have infected two thirds of their host populations; however, their biological impact remains unknown and the authors warn that this unexplored pool of viruses could have unexpected effects in cultivation conditions.

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Category: Research

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