MadSci Network: Virology

Re: Is it possible for viruses to evolve into a living organism?

Date: Tue Feb 18 13:47:33 2003
Posted By: Doug Reed, Faculty, Toxinology & Aerobiology, USAMRIID
Area of science: Virology
ID: 1045193313.Vi

Do viruses evolve? Yes, constantly. One instance where this has been quite 
closely followed and detailed is HIV. Extensive sequencing has detailed 
the adaptation of the virus to humans and indicate that it may have 
evolved from a virus that infects other primates, notably chimpanzees. 
There are numerous books and scientific articles on the origins and 
evolution of HIV you can look up for greater detail. A "hardcore" science 
text would "The Evolution of HIV" by Keith Crandall, et al. You could 
read "The River" by Edward Hooper - one you're more likely to find in your 
local library - but keep in mind that his theory on the origins of AIDS 
(the oral polio vaccine) has already been debunked. But he covers a lot of 
information about the "jump" of HIV from monkeys to humans.

Will they evolve into living organisms? Depending on who you talk to, they 
already are living organisms. They are not self-sufficient and must hijack 
the cellular machinery of their host to reproduce, but there are plenty 
of "living organisms" that are obligate parasites as well (Plasmodium 
species that cause malaria, for example). Cells of eukaryotic organisms 
contain mitochondria which are the "energy factories" of the cell; it has 
been suggested that mitochondia were once primitive bacteria that 
developed a symbiotic relationship with the ancestors of eukaryotic cells.

To rephrase your question a different way: are viruses likely to become 
self-sufficient and no longer require a host cell to reproduce? No. 

Current Queue | Current Queue for Virology | Virology archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Virology.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2003. All rights reserved.