October 12, 2011
World’s Largest Virus Found Off Coast Of Chile
A virus discovered in the sea off the coast of Chile is the largest in the world, containing more than 1,000 genes, scientists reported on Monday.
The DNA code of Megavirus chilensis is 6.5 percent bigger than the genome of the Mimivirus, the previous virus record-holder isolated in 2003.
Viruses are typically much smaller than bacteria, and cannot reproduce on their own. Rather, they require a host cell in which to replicate. However, M. chilensis is so large that it surpasses the size of many bacteria, and is the most genetically complex DNA virus ever described, the researchers said.
It was found in a seawater sample near the shore of Las Cruces, Chile.
Although its host organism is unknown, M. chilensis "doesn't seem to be harmful for humans," said researcher Jean-Michel Claverie of France's National Centre for Scientific Research.
The study was published online October 10, 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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