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Journal Articles Médecine/Sciences Year : 2016

Les virus géants

[Giant viruses: update, enigmas, controversies and perspectives].

Jean-Michel Claverie
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Chantal Abergel


Unlike microbes known in his time, the first virus (that of tobacco mosaic disease) was discovered by Ivanoski in 1892 because it was not retained by Chamberland's porcelain candles. For more than a century afterward, viruses were equated with this simple property that is still extensively used today (using modern 0,2 µm pore filters) as a practical criterion to delineate the "viral fraction" from other microbes in medical or environmental samples. The first documented exception to the simplistic criterion of particle size came with the discovery of Mimivirus, the viral nature of which was eventually recognized in 2003, following ten years during which it was mistaken for an obligate intracellular bacterium. Thirteen more years later, we now realize that non-filtering "giant viruses" are not rare, probably ubiquitous, and come in a large variety of virion shapes, genome sizes, gene contents, and replication strategies. Following a quick description of the 4 giant virus families known today, we discuss the enigmas, controversies and perspectives of conceptual revolutions that are brought about by this new and booming area of virology.



Dates and versions

hal-01768342 , version 1 (17-04-2018)



Jean-Michel Claverie, Chantal Abergel. Les virus géants. Médecine/Sciences, 2016, 32 (12), pp.1087 - 1096. ⟨10.1051/medsci/20163212012⟩. ⟨hal-01768342⟩


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