The largest virus ever found, the pithovirus, has been discovered in 30,000 year-old ice in Siberia. Pithoviruses - the largest ever found, are unlike any organism ever seen by the researchers. Although it cannot infect humans, it may still pose danger to humans.
Viruses come in all sizes and shapes, but a new organism found in Siberia is the largest one ever discovered.
Pithovirus sibericum measures 0.00002 inches wide by 0.00006 inches long. That may not sound like much, but in the world of viruses, this variety is the largest ever seen by researchers. The second-largest virus known pandoraviruses, which have a length just two-thirds that of the Pithovirus.
Pandoraviruses were discovered earlier by the same team, and are considered a second distinct form of virus from all other varieties.
"While initiating a survey of the Siberian permafrost, we isolated a third type of giant virus combining the Pandoravirus morphology with a gene content more similar to that of icosahedral DNA viruses," wrote the researchers in the article announcing the results.
While pandoraviruses have up to 2,500 genes, pithoviruses are much simpler, containing just 500 genes. This is still not the simplest virus in the world today. The organism that causes HIV has just 12 genes. Humans carry 20,000 to 25,000 genes capable of coding proteins....