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Why is it in the news?

  • Scientists identified ‘obelisks,’ a new form of life found between viruses and viroids in terms of simplicity, while analyzing genetic material from bacteria in the human gut.

 More about the news

  • It is characterized by a circular single-stranded RNA genome devoid of a protein coat, resembling viroids, yet possessing genes predicted to encode proteins, akin to viruses.
  • The discovery of obelisks was made possible through the utilization of next-generation sequencing (NGS), a highly advanced genetic analysis technique.
  • Their existence challenges traditional classifications of life forms and underscores the remarkable diversity and complexity of genetic entities within the biosphere.

·       Infectious microorganisms comprising nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) enclosed within a protein coat known as a capsid.

·       Lacking the metabolic machinery to carry out cellular processes independently, viruses depend on host cells for replication.

·       Viral infections can lead to various diseases in humans and other organisms, often causing harm or death to the host cell during replication.

·       Examples of human diseases caused by viruses include AIDS, COVID-19, measles, and smallpox, illustrating their wide-ranging impact on public health.


·       Small, infectious pathogens composed of short, single-stranded RNA molecules devoid of a protein coat.

·       Initially discovered in the 1970s by American plant pathologist Theodor Otto Diener, primarily affecting plants.

·       Viroids are known to infect a wide array of plant species, including agricultural crops, ornamental plants, and trees.

·       Notably, viroids do not infect animals or humans, with their impact primarily confined to the realm of plant pathology.

·       Well-known viroid families include Pospiviroidae, with examples like Potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd), and Avsunviroidae, which encompasses Avocado sunblotch viroid (ASBVd).



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