Newly-discovered monster virus from the depths of the Antarctic waters

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At the edge of the world it lay undisturbed for thousands of years. They should never have awakened it. They did. Coming this summer: Virophage!


An Australian research team working in Antarctica brought up something that was the stuff of nightmares - but not our nightmares. It's the kind of thing that keeps viruses awake at night, a rare creature known as a virophage. Virophages are viruses that eat viruses. Along with this new specimen, there are only three virophages in existence. One was discovered in a cooling tower in Paris (A polluted society gives birth to a new horror!), one was discovered earlier this month in a marine environment (It rose from the sea!), and this latest was discovered in Organice Lake in Antarctica. (They should have left it alone! Now it walks the earth!)

Virophages are selective killers, and tend to confine themselves to very specific diets of certain viruses. The first one was found in amoebas only, and did not replicate unless the amoeba was infected with the giant mimivirus or mamavirus. The newest virophage, named Organic Lake Virophage or OLV for short, only preys on Phycodnaviruses, which attack algae. While virophages are not necessarily on the side of the hosts, their predatory ways reduce the load of viruses and help the infected organism survive (Humanity's last hope was a ruthless killer bent on destruction!).

The rate of virophage discovery is speeding up. The first one was discovered in 2008, the next last month, and now OLV joins the family. It's likely that there are a lot of assassin viruses out there, waiting to be discovered. (It looks like we're safe. . . . But for how long?)

Via and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



Assuming we can keep it from attacking us, finding (or making) a virophage for specific, hard to beat diseases (HIV for example), sounds like a great thing and a novel approach to the problem. Though I'm sure that if it decided to turn on us we'd be in trouble. I for one welcome our new virophage overloards though!