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Attack of the mini-viruses


Viruses are fascinating little creatures. They’re like ninjas. Ninjas who sneak into your house, and turn your kids into more house-invading ninjas (that is, if your house were a cell, and the process of raising your kids was the cellular machinery).

They’re sneaky. My thesis was conducted on how living cells respond to ninja attacks viral infection – and while your immune system is smart, the numbers of ways viruses have of beating you are far more clever.

But, what if there was a way to out-ninja the ninja’s? What if there was a virus that could attack other viruses? Just published in Nature (hat tip: R. Boyko), some scientists discovered a tiny virus which they’ve called Sputnik which was capable of beating up other viruses.

They found that Sputnik infects the replication machinery in mamavirus [yes, I know how crazy that name is] and causes it to produce deformed viral structures and abnormal capsids. It had a similar effect on mimivirus [what’s with the crazy names?]. Because Sputnik’s behavior so closely resembles what bacteriophage do to bacteria, the researchers called the new type of virus a virophage, and suspect it may represent a new virus family.

Psh. Virophage is lame. I prefer – super-ninja.

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