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A team of French scientists are excited about a new virus. It’s the largest one ever found and was discovered off the coast of Chile. Scientists say the Mega Virus can help develop research into the possible usefulness of viral organisms. Mega viruses pose no threat to humans. Let's take a look.
This Mega Virus was discovered by scientists during an expedition off the coast of Chile. Mega Virus Chilensis is larger than the previous record holder, Mimi, and it’s a very complex organism.
[Jean-Michel Claverie, Researcher, French Genomic Research Centre]:
"It's actually the biggest virus in term of particle size. It is a little bigger than the previous Mimi Virus, but it is also more impressive in term of DNA and genomic size, DNA content."
Mimi Virus and Mega Virus have 594 genes in common and could form a new family of viruses, the "Megaviridae".
Viruses don't usually have that many genes and the researchers say the virus responsible for the flu or HIV have only ten genes. The Mega Viruses aren't harmful to human beings.
But what is intriguing to scientists is that they harbor genes that they say shouldn't be there, genes that are usually found in cellular organisms or in human cells.
[Jean-Michel Claverie, Researcher, The French Genomic and Structural Information Research Centre]:
"This is definitely putting back the viruses in the realm of the living organisms, the living things. The previous theory was more like viruses started by being very small and having very few genes and eventually were stealing genes from cells. What we are showing now is that this is exactly the converse (the opposite), probably those very large viruses were already bigger before and they are slowly reducing their sizes because they are parasites and parasites are always losing genes and losing functions as the time goes.” ..