Virophages replicate with giant viruses in the same eukaryotic cells. They are a major component of the specific mobilome of mimiviruses. Since their discovery in 2008, five other representatives have been isolated, 18 new genomes have been described, two of which being nearly completely sequenced, and they have been classified in a new viral family, Lavidaviridae
. Virophages are small viruses with approximately 35–74 nm large icosahedral capsids and 17–29 kbp large double-stranded DNA genomes with 16–34 genes, among which a very small set is shared with giant viruses. Virophages have been isolated or detected in various locations and in a broad range of habitats worldwide, including the deep ocean and inland. Humans, therefore, could be commonly exposed to virophages, although currently limited evidence exists of their presence in humans based on serology and metagenomics. The distribution of virophages, the consequences of their infection and the interactions with their giant viral hosts within eukaryotic cells deserve further research.
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