Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Largest virus found off Chile coast

Megavirus chilensis is so large it can be viewed using an ordinary light microscope

Scientists have found the largest-ever virus in water off the coast of South America.

Researchers said the "giant virus", Megavirus chilensis, is "isolated off the coast of Chile".

Like the Mimivirus, previously thought to be the largest, it thrives in freshwater amoebae, single-celled organisms.

It has more than 1,000 genes and its genome is 6.5% larger than the DNA code of the Mimivirus.

The Megavirus has the "largest viral genome fully sequenced so far", the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal said.

It is between 10 and 20 times longer than an average virus and is larger than some bacteria, Professor Jean-Michel Claverie from Aix-Marseille University in France told BBC News.

He said: "You don't need an electron microscope to see it - you can see it with an ordinary light microscope."

The scientists found the virus when they were sampling sea water near a marine station in Las Cruces, Chile.

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