Science Questions

Can viruses combine in your body to create a Super Virus?

Tue, 20th Mar 2012

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Why Viruses Don't Infect the Same Cell Twice


Andrew Roberts asked:

In regard of STDs sexually transmitted infections is it possible that virus strains, or types can combine in a host, say a human, and create a more destructive dangerous or communicable super virus?


Estee -   Absolutely.  I mean, so there was a case report I think in the New England Journal of Medicine a few years ago of exactly that  - a man who presented with HIV infection and then was subsequently re-infected with another strain and had a faster disease progression and died in fact.

Chris -   Because once you've got one strain, if you add another one on top then they can share genes between the viruses and you end up with a virus that's got all of the worst bits of both.

Estee -   Absolutely.


Subscribe Free

Related Content


Make a comment

The only thing most STDs have in common is they need certain conditions to get from one person to the next. They dry up and die easily, for example, and need to be transfered from one warm, wet mucous membrane to another immediately. You will not catch it shaking hands or touching a door knob. Or STDs live inside cells found in certain bodily fluids. But genetically, an organism like chlamydia is very different from the bacteria that causes gonorrhea or a virus like HPV or AIDs, and I would think it would be unlikely they could combine in anyway. That said, I have read that being infected with one STD increases the chances of getting infected or transmitting a second one if it is also present, and I think it has to do with the inflammatory conditions (more fluid, open sores) of the affected area. cheryl j, Mon, 9th Jan 2012

Viruses (STD or otherwise) can swap DNA with each other , (and their host) RD, Mon, 9th Jan 2012

Bacteria can also swap DNA via Plasmids, or even pick up environmental DNA. 

One of the concerns is that "Gut Flora" which frequently gets exposed to medications, such as Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci will donate their antibiotic resistant genes to more pathogenic bacteria.

If an individual is infected with multiple strains of closely related viruses, such as HIV-1 and HIV-2, I would think that it would be possible for them to recombine.

However, the likelihood would be essentially non-existent with, say Herpes Virus, and Gonorrhea bacteria. CliffordK, Mon, 9th Jan 2012

Couple days ago I saw a TV-program on discovery exactly about it. Viruses can change - for instance,  chlamydia testing shows that during 50 years symptoms have changed, and thus the virus is also mutated Michaella, Mon, 18th Jun 2012

See the whole discussion | Make a comment

Not working please enable javascript
Powered by UKfast
Genetics Society