The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (12/13)
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A Giant Virus Discovery Trumps SciFi

3469805217_91ea3a5422 Giant viruses aren't the result of nineteen-fifties Atomic Mutation (now playing in our air-conditioned theater!) 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.

The 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.

Luke McKinney


I know a virus that attacks a bacteria is called a bacteriophage, this book is a good read about bacteriophages:

Viruses vs. Superbugs: A Solution to the Antibiotics Crisis?
by Thomas Hausler

What do you call a virus that preys on viruses, and can anyone recommend a good books about them?

I like big butts and you can't deny!

It isn't necessary to be cute when writing about science. Just getting the facts right and expressing the ideas correctly are enough of a challenge, without resorting to catchy phraseology, which, actually, tends to obscure what is being said and creates a distraction from the content.

Lighten up, Bobby Burt! Personally, I enjoy creative writing, as long as it doesn't obfuscate the main storyline.

Mike Scirocco:

A virus that invades another virus MIGHT be called a " phagophage " ( My Latin is rusty, since I rarely use it. ) or a microphage if the ivading virus is smaller.

The best story to date about super 'bugs' is STILL Michael Chrichton's original ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1968). 'NUFF SAID'

that information as excellent. chemical combinations viruses are still incomprehensible to many specialists, and we must be very careful. thanks for letting me comment! chao ...

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