The viruses that we're most familiar with, like the influenza virus, are small and simple. Influenza is about 100 nanometers across, and has only 13 genes. But scientists are beginning to realize that there's no reason a virus needs to be that small or that simple--and in fact, there are "megaviruses" that can be much, much bigger and more complex than any virus you've seen before.
In a study published today in Science, researchers describe a newly-discovered megavirus that's the largest of its type ever seen. By volume, according to Carl Zimmer at the New York Times, it's 200 times larger than the flu, and has a whopping 2,556 genes. Even crazier, only 6 percent of those genes are familiar to us. The rest are completely new.
The researchers have decided to give the virus the genus name "pandoravirus," referring to the likelihood that the discovery will lead to all kinds of new knowledge about viruses. The first pandoravirus found, pictured above, turned up in a routine dig off the coast of Chile, and puzzled the researchers until they realized that it contained no bacterial DNA at all, and must in fact be a giant virus. But it's not one of a kind; shortly after, in an Australian pond, they found another. The researchers believe this indicates that pandoraviruses aren't rare at all, though much is still unknown about them (like, for example, why they're so much bigger than other viruses).
They might be huge, but the pandoraviruses discovered so far live only underwater and don't seem dangerous to humans. "This is not going to cause any kind of widespread and acute illness or epidemic or anything," said Eugene Koonin of the National Institutes of Health to NPR. So we won't be adding it to this list anytime soon. Hopefully.
Ew, but cool for medical science and science in general!
Ya until now when humans are around the virus more. That's a huge virus. Jesus, 2,556 genes?! Wow, what a toy box! Let's do some work! No telling what we could do with this bad boy! Some mkore interesting research on Megavirus and Mimivirus here:
"Do not try and bend the spoon. That is impossible. Only try and realize the truth - there is no spoon."
"This is not going to cause any kind of widespread and acute illness or epidemic or anything"
The above statement would have more validity if it wasn't for this statement...
"Even crazier, only 6 percent of those genes are familiar to us. The rest are completely new."
I'm 6% certain that this will not lead to our doom in some way.
Why yes we can have green eggs and ham!
The Blob is here! Run!!!
yes its not dangerous to humans until some one starts (playing a little)............ :<
2556 genes. And just think of the ways that sucker could exhibit once they find something landside that it can eat. With that many genes, it's doubtful that there's nothing running around that could host it. It's built to survive.
With that many genes, I wouldn't find any survival trait a surprise, such as adaptability to air for extended timeframes. With that many genes, once it does get in to a suitable carrier it should kill it off real quick, but anything could happen during or after that time. Pandora's a good name for it. I definitely agree that utmost care be taken with these critters. With that many genes, it probably doesn't have to play nice to get along with it's environment at all.
Sorry, but it's not a virus in the strict sense of the definition.