Friday, July 19, 2013

Meet the world's largest virus

It's a big sucker. 

French researchers have found a new kind of virus so big they initially thought it must be something else.

The startling discovery, which upends some long-held assumptions about the nature of viruses — namely, that they are small — led the scientists to give it a fitting name: Pandoravirus.

"We believe we're opening a Pandora's box — not so much for humanity but for dogma about viruses," Dr. Jean-Michel Claverie, a co-author of the paper, tells the New York Times. "We believe we're touching an alternative tree of life."

In a study published in the journal Science, the researchers say that the Pandoravirus is so unique, it deserves its own classification. For one, the virus is twice as big as the second-largest known virus, and dwarfs the size of most others — it's volume is 1,000 times that of the common flu.

What's more, of its 2,556 genes, just seven percent match genes already identified by science. That, they say, suggests the virus grew out of a completely separate gene lineage from its peers.
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