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Chapter 5 : Out of the Blue
This chapter talks about the existence of beneficial as well as harmful bacteria, categorized viruses solely as human, animal, and plant pathogens. Despite this existence, many books still portray all viruses as causes of death and disease, whether they are historic enemies, such as the agents of smallpox and poliomyelitis, or the "hot" viruses responsible for Lassa fever and similar infections. One of the microbial biodiversity (MFMB) discoveries concerned the microalga Emiliana huxleyi, studied by researchers at Plymouth Marine Laboratory. They reported strong evidence that a previously unknown virus is responsible for terminating blooms of the alga. Other hitherto-unknown microorganisms recovered through the microbial biodiversity (MFMB) program are bacteria that break down methyl bromide. The work at the University of Warwick has revealed an intriguing instance of symbiosis between viruses and cyanobacteria in the oceans. Plymouth and Warwick investigators have now cultivated three novel types of bacteria that degrade the gas and have used molecular probes to show that the oceans contain many others with this capability. A full taxonomic inventory for all eukaryotic organisms revealed 1,278 different groups at Priest Pot, including new species of protozoa, and 785 at Niva Bay. Similar work by teams from the Universities of Newcastle upon Tyne and Kent identified new Actinobacteria and indicated that over 1,000 other species remain to be discovered. Looking to the future, the MFMB program generated both novel theoretical approaches and new practical tools to facilitate bioprospecting for as-yet-unknown microorganisms in the sea.