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Volume 26, Number 10—October 2020
Etymologia

Etymologia: Mimivirus

Clyde PartinComments to Author 
Author affiliation: Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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Mimivirus [mĭm¢ĭ-vī¢rǝs]

Figure

Thumbnail of Mimivirus, Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus, with two satellite Sputnik virophages (arrows) Thin-section electron microscopy courtesy of J.Y. Bou Khalil and B. La Scola, IHU Mediterranée Infection, France.

Figure. Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus, with two satellite Sputnik virophages (arrows). Thin-section electron microscopy courtesy of J.Y. Bou Khalil and B. La Scola, IHU Mediterranée Infection, France.

If virus (Latin: slimy) challenges the definition of what constitutes life, the DNA mimivirus tests how we define virus. This unidentifiable “bacterium” infecting Acanthamoeba polyphaga (Figure), was isolated in 1992 from a hospital cooling tower in Bradford, England. Thus, the original name was Bradfordcoccus, and it was considered a culprit for a pneumonia outbreak at this hospital.

Researchers brought samples to Didier Raoult and colleagues at Aix-Marseille University, who eventually identified this “bacterium” as a novel virus in 2003. The physical size, genomic content, and ability of the outer protein coat to stain gram positive, thus mimicking (Latin: imitate) prokaryotic bacteria, indicated that this pathogen might be a bacterium.

Raoult initially claimed that the moniker meant “mimicking microbe” but later sheepishly recounted a childhood memory about his father, a physician–scientist, who created stories to explain evolution. Featured prominently in these whimsical narratives was an anthropomorphic character named “Mimi the amoeba.”

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Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid2610.et2610

Original Publication Date: September 09, 2020

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Table of Contents – Volume 26, Number 10—October 2020

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Clyde Partin, Emory University School of Medicine, 1365 Clifton Rd NE, Clinic A, 1st Fl, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

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Page created: September 09, 2020
Page updated: September 17, 2020
Page reviewed: September 17, 2020
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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