A new type of giant virus called “Pithovirus” has been discovered in the frozen ground of extreme north-eastern Siberia by researchers from the Information Génomique et Structurale laboratory (CNRS/AMU), in association with teams from the Biologie à Grande Echelle laboratory (CEA/INSERM/Université Joseph Fourier), Génoscope (CEA/CNRS) and the Russian Academy of Sciences. Buried underground, this giant virus, which is harmless to humans and animals, has survived being frozen for more than 30,000 years. Although its size and amphora shape are reminiscent of Pandoravirus, analysis of its genome and replication mechanism proves that Pithovirus is very different. This work brings to three the number of distinct families of giant viruses.
Transmission electron microscopy color image of a Pithovirus sibericum cross-section. This virion, dating back more than 30,000 years, is 1.5 µm long and 0.5 µm wide, which makes it the largest virus ever discovered.
Credit: © Julia Bartoli & Chantal Abergel, IGS…
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