Do Mimiviruses cause pneumonia?

Mimivirus I’m a huge fan of Mimivirus. I love it like a geneticist loves Drosophila, or a bacteriologist loves E. coli. But so what – does Mimivirus matter outside the walls of the laboratory? In this mixed up world, if you want to get any serious money to work on something, it has to make you sick, or preferably, kill you. There’s some serological evidence that you can find Mimiviruses in people with pneumonia – patients with pneumonia have higher levels of Mimivirus-specific antibodies than control groups. But this is not proof that they cause the disease rather than just going along for the ride.

A new paper (First Isolation of Mimivirus in a Patient With Pneumonia. Clin Infect Dis. 21 June 2013) has found a new Mimivirus in a patient with pneumonia. And it’s a big one – 1.23 million base pairs of DNA – nearly as big as Megavirus (1.3 million bp) – the largest viral genome ever isolated from a human patient. Although there’s still not difinitely proof that the virus causes the disease, it’s starting to look like Mimivirus is guilty.

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