A Giant Virus Discovery Trumps SciFi

Its interesting that “viral” is a positive word to some people (advertisers), but to most, a virus is something to avoid. A giant virus has been discovered that may be harmless to humans.

Giant viruses aren’t the result of nineteen-fifties Atomic Mutation … but a real infectious agent so unexpected they were only discovered recently. A giant virus was like a tiny elephant – something someone would not only not expect, but actively miss every time they looked because their initial assumptions would screen them out. Now another massive virus has been discovered.

3469805217_91ea3a5422The Marseillevirus (go on, guess where the discovering institute is located) is the fifth largest virus ever found and does things to genetics that make The Fly look like a faithful photocopy. It evolved inside amoebae, which – as well as oozing around the place doing their unicellular thing – act as hosts for an entire ecosystem of infectious agents. Viruses evolve particularly rapidly, stealing genes from whatever host (or even other viruses) they can get their proteins on, experimenting with millions of variations to find which ones work.

Some viruses become so large that other viruses can infect them, tiny super-specialized parasites piggy-backing their genetic code on their huge cousins. Others simply fail, their patchwork genomes not up to the challenges of the environment. The Marseillevirus has stolen ten percent of its chromosomes from bacteria it once infected, and anther five percent from the amoebic host of the party. It’s even infiltrated other giant viruses, taking parts of the mimivirus for its own purposes.

Don’t worry about any mass-media scare stories: this thing is no threat to us and there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest otherwise. Not that the latter necessarily affects the former.

via A Giant Virus Discovery Trumps SciFi.

Scientists in France have isolated a new giant virus that lurks inside amoeba and whose gene pool includes genetic material from other species.

The virus “is a completely new viral form,” said Didier Raoult, head of infectious and emerging tropical disease research at Aix-Marseille 2 University in France.

The genome of the so-called Marseillevirus encompasses a complex repertoire of genes that are “very different from the DNA of other virus forms,” and shows that there is genetic exchange between other micro-organisms such a giant viruses and bacteria found in amoeba, he told AFP in an interview.

Amoeba, single-cell life forms that can be parasites on either human or animals, are acting as “a sort of cradle of creation for new viruses and bacteria,” Raoult said, whose research was also published this week by the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

Only a small number of so-called giant viruses have been discovered, the first in 1993 by accident. Unlike classic viruses, they can been viewed through a conventional light microscope. … With a genome of 368,000 basic pairs, Marseillevirus is the fifth biggest virus ever sequenced and has a diametre of 250 nanometres (around 250 millionth of a millimetre, according the a report by Raoult’s for the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

The DNA of the giant virus contains material from different sources including plant and animal matter, bacteria and other giant viruses such as the Mimivirus, the report said. …

via Physorg

Are some bacteria smaller than the largest virus?

Several definitions of the word virus include the fact that they are smaller than bacteria, but now that is not always the case. The smallest currently known bacteria is Mycoplasma genitalium, with a diameter of 200-300 nm, which can be smaller than the 250 nm Marseillevirus.

Virus: A microorganism that is smaller than a bacterium that cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and to replicate itself. (MedicineNet)

How to Fight Viruses

It may be reassuring to know that “Vitamin C can kill every (or almost every) virus currently known to man.” and there are many other ways to deactivate virus activity.

Lysine is an essential amino acid which cannot be synthesised in the body.¬† … Lysine inhibits the proliferation of viruses. Along with vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin A, it helps in eliminating virus infections. Since vitamin C protects this amino acid in the body, lysine with vitamin C has a much stronger anti-virus effect than if either is used separately. (VitaminsDiary)

Are any viruses good?

The truth is there are trillions of viruses in our bodies, and they’re not at all bad.

Scientists have only recently begun to quantify the microbiome, and discovered it is inhabited by at least 38 trillion bacteria. More intriguing, perhaps, is that bacteria are not the most abundant microbes that live in and on our bodies. That award goes to viruses. It has been estimated that there are over 380 trillion viruses inhabiting us … (PhysOrg)

Some viruses may even be essential to organ development in mammals. One study found mice need viruses for organ growth.

Are viruses alive?

Not really, although it depends on what your definition of “alive” is, two infectious disease doctors told Live Science. Living beings, such as plants and animals, contain cellular machinery that allows them to self-replicate. In contrast, viruses are free forms of DNA or RNA that can’t replicate on their own. (LiveSci)

It’s very interesting, the line between life forms and non-life forms at the molecular level. It makes you think. If what cells do, like viruses, is just a matter of chemicals and atomic forces, and if all cells require different parts that help out in order to perform the functions of a life form (eating, growing, reproducing, avoiding threats), what is it really, that makes life … alive?

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