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Science News

World's Largest Virus 42

Posted by michael
from the freak-show dept.
Gavinsblog writes "New Scientist is reporting that the largest virus yet discovered may have been found in a water tower in the UK. Dubbed the 'Mimivirus', it may be related to Smallpox. It is not yet known if it causes disease."
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World's Largest Virus

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  • How big is it??? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by galaxy300 (111408)
    Can it be seen with the naked eye? : )
  • by Shaheen (313) on Friday March 28, 2003 @01:58PM (#5617566) Homepage
    Kathy Kinney [wchstv.com]?

    (For those who don't know, she plays Mimi on the Drew Carey Show).
  • Mimi... (Score:3, Funny)

    by joeslugg (8092) on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:08PM (#5617655)
    ...christened Mimivirus because of its similarity to a bacterium...

    No, methinks Drew Carey had a hand in this... or perhaps Mr. Wick?

    Pig!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 28, 2003 @02:26PM (#5617817)
    Well, someone had to say it ...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    eventually viruses will evolve to the point that they can pass chemical "message darts" to one another thereby learning to adapt to environmental changes more rapidly than crude evolution would allow. In time these intelligent viruses would conquer all life un-gluing it and re-gluing it together in ways that benefit the virus best. These viruses would pose a threat to humanity ofcourse... but I bet we could hold them off with food additives or something.
    • Sounds like you took an idea right from Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind books, talking about the stories' Descolada virus.
    • Viruses are pretty much inert until they dock with and infect a cell. What possible advantage would a "chemical dart" be to an inert particle? If viruses evolved to have a "chemical dart," what would it do with it? How could it evolve faster then "crude evolution," whatever that is? Looks like bad science fiction to me--although bacteria do some of this stuff, sorta. Bacteria can do something called quorum sensing where they detect chemical signals from other bacteria which can then regulate gene expre
    • It is in the best interest of a virus not to kill or severely impair its host. They're already evolving fast enough to keep pace with their hosts, so there's no need to invent a process to speed it up. HIV is actually not in evolutionary equilibrium with humans yet. It mutates so rapidly the immune system can't keep up with it. It will eventually learn to restrain itself, but not before it has killed millions more people.
    • There was a Wired article about bacteria doing this...don't have a link offhand. Viruses are just a few proteins and DNA and/or RNA though, not even technically living, so this is unlikely.
  • Yes, but, (Score:4, Funny)

    by delorean (245987) on Friday March 28, 2003 @03:23PM (#5618316) Homepage
    According to Agent Smith, we {humans} are viruses.

  • by jpsst34 (582349) on Friday March 28, 2003 @03:36PM (#5618435) Journal
    Are my Windows installations vulnerable to this one, too? If it's really that big, then it probably won't fit through port 135 [slashdot.org] even if I leave it open, right?
  • Here's how it's killing the poor infected cells: by bursting them.
    • That's how all viruses reproduce. They latch onto a host cell and inject their own DNA into it. The virus DNA then proceeds to hijack the cell's reproductive mechanisms, forcing it to make more viruses inside itself until the cell becomes so full of these new viruses that it bursts open and dies, thereby unleashing the newly made viruses.
      • I'd like to expand on your comment. You're right on for some viruses, but there are others that work differently.

        Some viruses are lytic; others not. It is possible for an infected cell to become virus factory that continues to live. There are some viruses that become latent. They infect a cell and become dormant, sometimes even for years. Shingles is a localized outbreak of latent chickenpox that can occur in old age.

        Some viruses have RNA in them instead of DNA. West Nile, HIV and influenza are examples.
      • by barakn (641218)
        1. Not all nucleic acid is injected. At least one bacteriophage appears to be pulled into its host on a pilus. Other methods involve fusion of the viral envelope with the host's cytoplasmic membrane (like two bubbles coalescing into one), or the virus triggering the host into endocytosing it (it gets wrapped up in membrane and swallowed).

        2. Some viruses use RNA instead of DNA.

        3. Some are released from the host cell via non-lethal means (budding, though budding often is lethal). Many plant viruses re

  • by bobdotorg (598873) on Friday March 28, 2003 @03:38PM (#5618445)
    Scientists announced that because the virus is coded for NT4, there will be no efforts create a vaccine and that patients should upgrade their immune systems or turn off their nasal port.
  • Set Janeway on it.
  • by weaknees (662168)
    "...largest virus yet discovered may have been found..."

    Could not possibly be very big if they don't know whether they've found it.
  • Better or worse? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phorm (591458) on Friday March 28, 2003 @04:29PM (#5618865) Journal
    So, are larger virii better or worse? I would think that as far as detection... larger is better. But how about as far as being killed by immuno-response, and/or reproducing, complexity, etc?

    The article indicates that the virus is larger DNA-wise... which indicates higher complexity, possibly a better ability to adapt?

    It's interesting that the virus is big... but what consequences does this have medically?
    • what consequences does this have medically?

      As far as the amoebae they infect are concerned, it sucks. It's like having one of them alien thingys rip out of their ... er.... chests.

      But seriously, while humans were found to have antibodies against these macrovirii, it's quite possible it's because they are in the water supply and humans keep drinking them. There's no indication they produce active infections in human cells. I can't think of any viruses that switch between infecting one-celled organisms a

    • " Viruses [perl.com]" is the plural of "virus." "Virii" is a h4x0r term that does not follow any English or Latin declension.

      As for evolutionary advantage, there must be some since this virus exists, but there are also tiny viruses. I think it's better to consider ecological niches. More DNA allows for more functions, but it is also burdensome. It takes more energy to reproduce that DNA, and there are more chances that for maladaptive mistakes. Different organisms end up with different adaptations, including genome si
  • John Belushi in a Virus Suit walk in and start acting tough?

  • "It is not yet known if it causes disease."

    I thought by definition a virus caused disease. It kills cells, injects its own viral code, bursts, and spreads. If this doesn't do that, is it a virus? If it does, isn't it causing disease?

    Slashdot, educate me!
    • a virus is an "organism" that reproduces with the help of a living cell host, usually causing disease but not always.
    • Viruses are parasitic (i.e. they depend on their host to survive and propagate). There is a well-known hypothesis in the medical/biological communities that says that the most effective and therefore most successful parasite does little or no damage to its host while replicating itself.

      An example is the common cold. Quite successful at dissemination while causing little long-term damage.HIV is another example; it can lay dormant (but infect others) for years until it destroys enough T cells to affect immuni

    • As well, the virus is found (apparently) only in Amoeba. It may well cause disease in the amoebas - this would be of great concern in the amoeba world, of course, but less so in the human world. :)
  • So all those emails I've been getting are right after all! Size DOES matter!
  • This isn't very deep, but when I first read the title of this story, what leapt to mind was a Sidney Harris cartoon [sciencecartoonsplus.com] from Einstein Simplified. Two scientists (you can tell they're scientists, they're wearing labcoats) are looking into a cage the size of a rabbit cage. One of them is saying, "Biggest damn virus I've ever seen!" Pity I can't find a copy of it at the moment.

  • by norm_z (154015)
    On the related topic of virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has struck more fear for people in South East Asia. It has spreaded to many parts of the globe. You may find out more at World Health Organization (WHO) [who.int]. I'm not trying to spread fear, but so far there's no treatment for it, and the infectious agent hasn't been found yet. So watch for your personal hygiene. FAQ [who.int] here. More news at CNN [cnn.com].

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