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NASA should start looking for viruses on other planets, scientists suggest

Forget the aliens, let's start looking for viruses in our Solar System. Although scientists have been studying infectious agents for decades, there is still much to be learned about them and whether they exist in space or not. Now, a group of scientists proposes that we look for more answers.

"[Viruses] is believed to have played an important role in the origin and evolution of life," wrote biologists at Portland State University (PSU) in an article published in the journal Astrobiology . "However, there is still very little focus on viruses in astrobiology."

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NASA scientists studying astrobiology explore three main questions: "How does life begin and evolve? Is there life elsewhere in the Universe? What is the future of life? on Earth and beyond? "According to the Space Agency's 2015 Astrobiological Strategy. But, viruses are vaguely mentioned throughout the plan, therefore, PSU researchers have proposed to explore more "astrovirology".

 1_20_planets A crescent moon is seen near the planets Venus (C, below) and Jupiter (R) in this rare alignment on December 1, 2008 from New York. Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images

Study author Kenneth Stedman, professor of biology at PSU, and colleagues recommend that NASA and other space agencies Begin your search for viruses by examining liquid samples of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.

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In addition, the team suggests that tools be developed to uncover viruses in old deposits in Earth and Mars, and examine whether particles could survive in space.

"We need to further develop current tools, either [an electron microscope] on a spacecraft or develop other microscopic technologies that can detect molecules, not just atoms at nanometer resolution," Stedman told Gizmodo.

Although "astrovirology" is not a widely recognized field, Stedman is not the first person to suggest that viruses exist in abundance in space. In 2013, Dale Griffin, a scientist from the US Geological Survey. UU., He recommended the scientists take a look at whether there are viruses behind our planet. But, he suggests proceeding with caution.

"We should be looking for viruses in our search for extraterrestrial life, and it may be that viruses do not pose a risk to human planetary exploration," Griffin wrote in an article published in Astrobiology . "However, there is the possibility of risk, and our possible contact with them must be dealt with accordingly."

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