IN a freezer in Marseille, France, sits a virus that is by far the biggest virus known to science; it is huge, around thirty times bigger than the rhinovirus that gives you a common cold. And it is staggeringly hard to kill. Most viruses can be destroyed by high temperatures or strong alkalis, or shaken to pieces by sound waves – but not this one. That’s not what has made scientists sit up and take notice, however.
This giant virus’s biggest impact won’t be on the healthcare systems of the globe. It will be, most likely, on the history of life on Earth. Mimivirus doesn’t fit with the established story of how life on Earth got going. Viruses are not classified as alive, yet Mimi has a genome that, in parts, looks like yours. Mimivirus seems to be part of the story of life on Earth – and it may even rewrite the book of life itself.