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After a giant virus was yesterday reported off the coast of South America, it emerged that a group of women scientists had previously discovered it and decided “it wasn’t bad enough to take a day off work”.

And yesterday’s operation by a team of male scientists was delayed after the expedition leader’s wife phoned his office to explain that “he wouldn’t be coming in today”.

Tonya Jessop said that after discovering mega virus chilensis (pictured) off Chile, her husband had promptly taken to his bed, where he was responding irritably to most things she said and repeatedly saying: “I know you don’t think I am really ill.”

But Mrs Jessop said that she feared for his health as he was suffering from a condition that rendered him unable to get up and make food or drink but left his capacity to follow DVDs of The Wire completely unimpaired.

But a group of women scientists yesterday put out a statement saying they had previously encountered the same Chilean mega virus and hadn’t felt the need to take any time off work.

“Yeah, we saw the so-called megavirus but really, there was nothing mega about it,” said Betty Hagen. “I wouldn’t even call it big. These guys should get over it.”

Like the mimivirus, previously thought to be the largest, the mega virus chilensis survives in freshwater amoebae. It has more than 1,000 genes and its genome is 6.5 per cent larger than the DNA code of the Mimivirus.

In a weak voice, Tom Jessop told TDN: “This is a really, really bad virus. Seriously.”

He said his team would be bringing samples of the giant virus to the surface “tomorrow, maybe the day after, depending how I feel. But it’s too early to be making predictions – I barely have the strength to play half an hour of Read Dead Redemption at the moment”.

Responding to reports that the mega virus was 10 to 20 times wider than the average virus, Jessop snorted and said: “It is way, way worse than that, believe me. That is the last time I go poking around at the bottom of the ocean. Oh God, I feel terrible.”

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