Viruses: foe, freeloader or friend?

Viruses “Viruses are nasty little blighters” is the common view expressed by the media. But is the true situation more complicated than that? This article argues that it is.

“When viewed at the cellular level, virus[-host] interactions with the host lean more towards aggression, where the virus is an enemy or at best, an unwelcome guest. Like party crashers, they quietly enter through doors and windows normally meant for other uses, eat their way through kitchen, and make a mess of the living room. By the time anyone notices, they have invited all of their friends and are destroying the place like rockstars trash hotel rooms. The first half of the issue then, covers virus–host interactions at the cellular level and highlights new research on some of the ways by which these unwanted guests get in, take over and get out.

From an ecological perspective, many viruses live in more diversified ‘neighbourhoods’ consisting of more than one host, and in some cases, of hosts that themselves infect other hosts. In these situations, defining whether a virus infection is detrimental, neutral or beneficial becomes blurred….”


Viruses: foe, freeloader or friend? (2012) Curr Opin Microbiol. 15(4): 486-489

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