publicado em 11/10/2011 às 16h17:00
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Largest known virus has been discovered on the central coast of Chile

Virus, which has about 0.7 micrometers in diameter, and only infects amoebae can be seen with ordinary microscope

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Scientists at the Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France have discovered the largest known virus.

Named Megavirus chilensis, it is found off the coast of Chile and is 10 to 20 times higher than the average, beating the record of Mimivirus, seen in a cooling tower water in the UK in 1992.

The results of initial studies show that Megavirus, which measures about 0.7 micrometers in diameter, only infects amoebae, unicellular organisms that float freely in the sea.

The researchers said the new virus becomes larger than some bacteria. "You do not need an electron microscope to see it, you can see it with an ordinary light microscope," said Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, of Aix-Marseille University, the news agency BBC News.

Viruses can not copy themselves, they must invade a host cell to replicate. As the Mimivirus, the Megavirus have structures like hair or fibers on the outside of his shell, or capsid, which probably attract amoebae confuse them with bacteria with similar characteristics.

A study of giant DNA virus shows that it has more than one thousand genes, biochemical instructions that he uses to build the systems you need to replicate once inside its host.

In laboratory experiments conducted by Professor Claverie and colleagues, where they infected freshwater amoebae, the trojan Megavirus built large organelles, which would produce new viruses to infect other amoebae. "Everything starts from a single particle, and then grows to become the factory of the virion. That's why he needs all of these genes," Claverie said.

Megavirus was found off the coast of Las Cruces, central Chile. Was recovered as part of a general trawl the ocean to specific biological studies. "This is a new way to study virology. Before we only viruses because we found they caused disease in humans, animals and plants. But now we are starting what could be called environmental virology and we are looking for viruses in all places" , Claverie says.

According to the researcher, the megavirus showed no evidence that it is dangerous to humans.

   Palavras-chave:   Viruses    Most viruses    Megavirus chilensis    Center for Scientific Research    CNRS    Jean-Michel Claverie   
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