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Giant Viruses Revive Old Questions About Viral Origins

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Science  02 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6072, pp. 1035
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6072.1035

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Where did viruses come from? And are they alive? University of Aix-Marseille microbiologist Didier Raoult's 2004 discovery of Mimivirus—and several other giant viruses identified since then—has brought those questions, debated for a century, back to the scientific fore. The genetic makeup of Mimivirus, which includes many genes encoding the enzymes that repair DNA, correct errors occurring during its replication, produce mRNA transcripts from genes, and translate those mRNAs into proteins, has challenged the view that viruses are not alive.