In a breakthrough study, researchers from University of the Mediterranean, France, have discovered a new virus that can infect other viruses - and can be used to combat viral infections,
The research team led by Didier Raoult have found a new virus called Sputnik that spreads by hijacking the replication machinery of the mamavirus- a new strain of the giant mimivirus.
Owing to its similarities to bacteriophages or phages, viruses that infect bacteria, the new class of virus has been dubbed as 'virophage', as the one virus invades another.
The team found that Sputnik could reduce the spread of mamavirus in amoeba and also acquired genes from other viruses.
The new finding can open up new avenues of understanding the genetic evolution of harmful viruses and use virophages to destroy them.
"It's too early to say we could use Sputnik as a weapon against big viruses or to modify them," New Scinetist quoted co-author Bernard La Scola, also at the University of the Mediterranean, as saying.
"But phages are used to modify bacteria, so why not?" he added.
"What is interesting here is that Sputnik is doing this at the expense of the bigger virus," said Robin Weiss, of University College London.
The findings appear in journal Nature.