The Discovery of Alien DNA in the Human Genome Raises Questions About Preventing ‘Virtual Infections’

Images “Earlier this year, molecular biologists announced that 20 per cent of nonhuman genome databases are contaminated with human DNA, probably from the researchers who sequenced the samples,” Technology Review‘s The Physics ArXiv blog.

“Now, the human genome itself has become contaminated. Bill Langdon at University College London and Matthew Arno at Kings College London say they’ve found sequences from mycoplasma bacteria in the human genome database.


“These mycoplasma genes are clearly successful in reproducing themselves in silico,” the post further warned. “One possibility is that we’re seeing the beginnings of an entirely new kind of landscape of infection. Here, genes that can masquerade as human (or indeed as other organisms) can successfully transmit themselves from one database to another.”

“The gene sequences chosen when they were designed are built into them and cannot be changed,” Langdon added. “The results of thousands of such gene chips are widely disseminated via the Internet. Once a tissue sample is contaminated, routines are used to destroy it immediately in the hope of preventing the mold spreading to other samples. Some laboratories routinely sterilise all their experimental glassware every 6 weeks. They do not ‘disinfect’ their computer databases.”

“If a sample is contaminated with mycoplasma, there is probably no point to using the data collected from it. [But] if the gene chip design measures the presence of the mold gene, it gives a cheap automatic way of detecting mycoplasma contamination.”

The Daily Galaxy via MIT technologyreview.com

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