They are abundantly present on earth, so why should space be different?
No organism is as common on earth as the viruses: it is estimated that they are 10 to 100 times more numerous than any other (cellular) organism on earth. In addition, everything indicates that viruses have been on the planet for an extremely long time and have played a central role in the origin and development of life on our planet. It has made researcher Ken Stedman and colleagues think. And in a new paper - published in the magazine Astrobiology - they introduce the idea that viruses also occur frequently outside the earth and that it is high time that we search for these alien viruses.
Viruses on Mars?
In their study, the researchers argue in favor of looking for viruses in samples from the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. In addition, technology should be developed to detect viruses in old deposits on Mars, for example. In addition, the researchers would like to find out whether terrestrial viruses can survive in space.
New research questions
"We hope our paper will lead to the integration of virus research into astrobiology," Stedman explains. "We also want to point out pressing unanswered questions in astrovirology, particularly with regard to the detection of biosignatures from viruses and whether viruses can spread outside the earth."
Although there is intensive research on viruses on Earth, hardly any thought has yet been given to whether they also occur in space. “More than a century has passed since the discovery of the first viruses. Now that virology is entering the second century, we can finally focus on what is outside of our own planet. "