The past decade has revealed some exciting new discoveries in the field of virology. Several giant viruses have been discovered that are 100 times the size of viruses we’re familiar with, and they have unique genomes that hint at another domain of life (in addition to bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes). Although these viruses still require the host’s machinery for energy, they are changing the way we think about viruses and whether they’re living or non-living.
Ed Yong published an article in Nature News yesterday about the newest giant virus: Pithovirus sibericum, recovered from 30,000 year old permafrost. This virus is still infectious to amoebas and is the largest found so far. The genome inside isn’t as tightly packed as other viruses, but what that means for function of the virus is unknown.
These viruses aren’t known to infect humans. However, I’ve read comments about whether these resurrected viruses could become a problem for human health, especially in light of climate change. What do you think?