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Jean-Michel Claverie

I was at the Giant virus meeting, that I hope will become the first of a regular series of "Ringberg Castle meeting on Giant viruses". It was superbly organized by Dr. Matthias Fischer (Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg).

There was a lot of incremental progresses reported there, and to my opinion two of global significance:
1) these giants viruses are incredibly diverse and not rare at all, as they are found in a large range of different environments. Their late discovery was thus simply due to conservative thinking and protocols (filtering!), not to an inherent difficulty in isolating/propagating them in the laboratory. The proof is, many images of these giant viruses (but called Virus Like Particles - VLP) had been published as much as 30 years earlier, although most of them in highly specialized journals amidst total indifference. So not daring to interpret these images as bona fide viruses, or filtering them out using a 0.2 micron-sized filter were the causes of our ignorance. A lesson to be learned over an over (and retained) by future biologists (remember the "psycho-somatic" stomach ulcer, now finally known to be caused by H. pylori). Youn generation: be daring!

2) A NEW giant virus was presented that exhibits in it genome additional remnants
of a new "cell-only" pathways, to me confirming beyond doubt that these giant viruses indeed do have a cellular ancestor (a "cell", but not necessarily the type of cells we are familiar with today).

I won't say more, because nothing of the above is published, and I don't want to steal from these superb scientists the thunder and glory they deserve!

But I believe this "Ringberg Castle meeting" will remain an historical landmark for Virology.

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