How do you tell the world that your discovery of a new virus isn’t that big a deal? Simple: You name it “Yada Yada,” the catch phrase made famous in a 1997 Seinfeld episode.
Yada yada means “boring or empty talk,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which notes that the phrase is “often used interjectionally, especially in recounting words regarded as too dull or predictable to be worth repeating.”
That pretty much sums up the Yada Yada virus, according to Jana Batovska of AgriBio, the Centre for AgriBioscience, the first author of a short paper published on 9 January in Microbiology Resource Announcements.
The discovery just isn’t all that exciting. The team extracted RNA from large numbers of mosquitoes in Australia’s Victoria state and found a new alphavirus, a group that includes nasties such as the chikungunya virus, which has caused epidemics in dozens of countries, and astern equine encephalitis, which caused an unusually large outbreak in the United States last year. But the new virus poses zero threat to humans: It is part of a group that only infects mosquitoes.
Nor is it very unusual to discover new insect-only alphaviruses. In 2012, researchers reported the discovery of the Eilat virus from Anopheles mosquitoes in the Negev Desert in Israel, for instance. In 2018, others plucked the Mwinilunga virus from Culex mosquitoes in Zambia, followed in 2019 by the discovery of the Agua Salud virus in Panama, also from Culex mosquitoes.
That doesn’t mean the discovery won’t be useful: “Mosquito-specific viruses can help us understand how viruses evolved, and can be really useful for vaccine production and diagnostics,” Batovska wrote yesterday on Twitter.
But a breakthrough it isn’t. So yes, “we did name the virus after Seinfeld!” Batovska tweeted. “The rise of metagenomic sequencing has resulted in an explosion of virus discovery, with new viruses being announced every day—this is another one: Yada Yada virus.”
“Also,” she added, “Seinfeld is awesome.”