Megavirales is a proposed new virus order composed of Mimivirus, Marseillevirus and closely related viruses, as well as members of the families Poxviridae, Iridoviridae, Ascoviridae, Phycodnaviridae and Asfarviridae. The Megavirales virome, which we refer to as the megavirome, has been largely neglected until now because of the use of technical procedures that have jeopardized the discovery of giant viruses, particularly the use of filters with pore sizes in the 0.2-0.45-μm range. Concurrently, there has been accumulating evidence supporting the role of Mimivirus, discovered while investigating a pneumonia outbreak using amoebal coculture, as a causative agent in pneumonia.
In this paper, we describe the detection of sequences related to Mimivirus and Marseillevirus in the gut microbiota from a young Senegalese man. We also searched for sequences related to Megavirales in human metagenomes publicly available in sequence databases.
We serendipitously detected Mimivirus- and Marseillevirus-like sequences while using a new metagenomic approach targeting bacterial DNA that subsequently led to the isolation of a new member of the family Marseilleviridae, named Senegalvirus, from human stools. This discovery demonstrates the possibility of the presence of giant viruses of amoebae in humans. In addition, we detected sequences related to Megavirales members in several human metagenomes, which adds to previous findings by several groups.
Overall, we present convergent evidence of the presence of mimiviruses and marseilleviruses in humans. Our findings suggest that we should re-evaluate the human megavirome and investigate the prevalence, diversity and potential pathogenicity of giant viruses in humans.