First isolation of a giant virus from wild Hirudo medicinalis leech: Mimiviridae isolation in Hirudo medicinalis.Viruses. 2013 Nov 27; 5(12):2920-30.V
Giant viruses and amoebae are common in freshwater, where they can coexist with other living multicellular organisms. We screened leeches from the species Hirudo medicinalis for giant viruses. We analyzed five H. medicinalis obtained from Tunisia (3) and France (2). The leeches were decontaminated and then dissected to remove internal parts for co-culture with Acanthamoeba polyphaga. The genomes of isolated viruses were sequenced on a 454 Roche instrument, and a comparative genomics analysis was performed. One Mimivirus was isolated and the strain was named Hirudovirus. The genome assembly generated two scaffolds, which were 1,155,382 and 25,660 base pairs in length. Functional annotations were identified for 47% of the genes, which corresponds to 466 proteins. The presence of Mimividae in the same ecological niche as wild Hirudo may explain the presence of the mimivirus in the digestive tract of the leech, and several studies have already shown that viruses can persist in the digestive tracts of leeches fed contaminated blood. As leeches can be used medically and Mimiviruses have the potential to be an infectious agent in humans, patients treated with leeches should be surveyed to investigate a possible connection.