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World's Largest Virus

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the freak-show dept.

Science 42

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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How big is it??? (0, Flamebait)

galaxy300 (111408) | more than 11 years ago | (#5617541)

Can it be seen with the naked eye? : )

Re:How big is it??? (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 11 years ago | (#5617825)

"With my naked eye I saw.. the fallin' rain comin' down on me.." o/`

Re:How big is it??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5620652)

Never mind that!

Can it be picked up and cleaned by either McAfee or NAV?

Re:How big is it??? (1)

geoswan (316494) | more than 11 years ago | (#5617973)

The article said they were slightly larger than the smallest bacteria. Can you see a bacteria with your naked eye?

Re:How big is it??? (1)

pyr0 (120990) | more than 11 years ago | (#5617983)

Umm, no. In the article it is stated that the virus has an approximate size of 400 nanometers, and 1 nanomater is 1x10^-9 meters. Definitely microscopic.

US (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5618658)

I was told that world's largest virus is the US

Re:US (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5618728)

No, the US is a phagocyte [] . It considers the rest of the world to be waste materials or harmful foreign bodies. I can say this with certainty, because I am, embarrassingly enough, an American.

Re:How big is it??? (1)

lent (164114) | more than 11 years ago | (#5621606)

No, but close... []
The virus is so large that at first researchers mistook it for bacteria. Most viruses can only be seen with electron microscopes but
this one was spotted through a high quality optical microscope.

Would the 'mimi' be in reference to... (2, Funny)

Shaheen (313) | more than 11 years ago | (#5617566)

Kathy Kinney [] ?

(For those who don't know, she plays Mimi on the Drew Carey Show).

Re:Would the 'mimi' be in reference to... (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618657)

or maybe it makes an evil little clone of itself called the mini-mimi virus

Mimi... (3, Funny)

joeslugg (8092) | more than 11 years ago | (#5617655)

...christened Mimivirus because of its similarity to a bacterium...

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


You mean that it is bigger than Microsoft Windows? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5617817)

Well, someone had to say it ...

It is only a matter of time... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5618133)

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.

Re:It is only a matter of time... (0, Offtopic)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618794)

+5 this one!

Re:It is only a matter of time... (1)

shobadobs (264600) | more than 11 years ago | (#5619057)

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.

Uh, why? (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | more than 11 years ago | (#5620345)

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 expression. Bacteria can also do some limited swapping of genes with other bacteria; neither is something a virus can do. Bacteria aren't taking over the world unless you mean what Gould said about it still being the age of bacteria. They're also not exactly what we'd call intelligent, either.

I've just been trolled, right? Oh well.

Re:It is only a matter of time... (2, Interesting)

barakn (641218) | more than 11 years ago | (#5620684)

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.

Re:It is only a matter of time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5665795)

Are there multi-stage vaccines that can "teach" the immune sytem or cause it to evolve in stages? If a vaccine powerful enough to kill HIV would also kill the patient, could a succession of increasingly strong vaccines help the immune system surf non-fatal waves to earn the required defenses? Recovery intervals would reduce the effective gradient that must be climbed by the immune system before it can compete with HIV.

Re:It is only a matter of time... (1)

SiMac (409541) | more than 11 years ago | (#5620886)

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, (4, Funny)

delorean (245987) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618316)

According to Agent Smith, we {humans} are viruses.

If I block port 135, will I be safe? (4, Funny)

jpsst34 (582349) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618435)

Are my Windows installations vulnerable to this one, too? If it's really that big, then it probably won't fit through port 135 [] even if I leave it open, right?

"even bigger than some bacteria" (1)

Muhammar (659468) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618440)

Here's how it's killing the poor infected cells: by bursting them.

Re:"even bigger than some bacteria" (2, Informative)

KewlPC (245768) | more than 11 years ago | (#5619001)

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.

Not always (1)

yet another coward (510) | more than 11 years ago | (#5620695)

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.

grade school biologists (2, Informative)

barakn (641218) | more than 11 years ago | (#5620869)

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 require mechanical damage, often from the mouthparts of an insect, to get out. Another method for plant viruses is to travel through cytoplasmic connections between cells, a process that doesn't require lysis (how could a virus burst a plant cell wall anyway?).

4. Some viruses, instead of reproducing, go latent by integrating into the host DNA. Sometimes this triggers the host cell into becoming cancerous. In this case, the host, rather than bursting, becomes "immortal."

In a related story... (4, Funny)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 11 years ago | (#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.

Re:In a related story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5618603)

Scientists also announced they will being ignoring the virus on June 30th, 2003.

..and here I was.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5618545)

....thinking that Michael Moore was the world's largest virus.

Maybe not. World's larget pussy? Definitely.

A macro virus? (1)

chrisseaton (573490) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618557)

Set Janeway on it.

Re:A macro virus? (1)

HaloZero (610207) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618891)

Such a good episode. I thought it was rather funny that the antivirus consisted of a tank of syrum, bungeed to a grenade.

Huh? (1)

weaknees (662168) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618646)

"...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? (2, Interesting)

phorm (591458) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618865)

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?

Re:Better or worse? (1)

barakn (641218) | more than 11 years ago | (#5620634)

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 and mammals.

Viruses (1)

yet another coward (510) | more than 11 years ago | (#5620762)

"Viruses [] " 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 size.

Can't you just see (1)

TerryAtWork (598364) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618871)

John Belushi in a Virus Suit walk in and start acting tough?

Wait... (1)

insecuritiez (606865) | more than 11 years ago | (#5618998)

"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!

Re:Wait... (1)

C21 (643569) | more than 11 years ago | (#5620147)

a virus is an "organism" that reproduces with the help of a living cell host, usually causing disease but not always.

Re:Wait... (1)

Quadriceps (549678) | more than 11 years ago | (#5622076)

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 immunity.

Re:Wait... (1)

Angry Toad (314562) | more than 11 years ago | (#5631340)

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. :)

You mean? (1)

insecuritiez (606865) | more than 11 years ago | (#5619026)

So all those emails I've been getting are right after all! Size DOES matter!

Sideny Harris Cartoon (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 11 years ago | (#5620676)

This isn't very deep, but when I first read the title of this story, what leapt to mind was a Sidney Harris cartoon [] 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.

SARS (1)

norm_z (154015) | more than 11 years ago | (#5622693)

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) [] . 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 [] here. More news at CNN [] .
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