Pithovirus emerges from the Siberian permafrost


Although this made headlines around the world, it is probably only of concern to amoebae and evolutionary virologists. But the researchers suggested that as the Earth's ice melts, this could trigger the return of other ancient viruses, with potential risks to human health. The scientific virological community responded by pointing out that this "stretched scientific rationality to the breaking point" (Curtis Suttle - University of British Columbia, Vancouver)

This is not to say that this virus does not have some interesting properties -- it is the largest virus at 1.5 micrometers long (the size of a small bacterium) -- one end appears to sealed with a cork (photo) -- the French researchers named it from the Greek word 'pithos' for the large container used by the ancient Greeks to store wine and food. It is unrelated to other giant viruses such as Mimivrus or Pandoravirus that have been isolated from amoeba. Pandoravirus has a large viral genome at 2.8 million base pairs compared to Pithovirus at 0.6 base pairs. Only 32% of the predicted Pithovirus proteins have homologs in protein databases (this number is 61% for Minivirus and 16% for Pandoravirus).

Pithovirus hints at the vast unimagined viral diversity that awaits our discovery.

For more, see article by Professor Vincent Racaniello