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Author Topic: What positive purpose does a virus have in nature?  (Read 25517 times)

Offline Alan McDougall

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Greetings,

Please ignore my ignorance, from my perspective I do not know of any friendly viruses that help like digestive stomach bacteria does.

What purpose does the huge diversity of viruses have in the grand order of nature?

Alan
« Last Edit: 22/06/2008 10:56:29 by chris »


 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: What positive purpose does a virus have in nature?
« Reply #1 on: 22/06/2008 09:10:17 »
Who says they have to have a purpose?

For what it's worth there are a few that we make use of. Some viruses atack bacteria and these are sometimes used to treat people who wre infected by those bacteria.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteriophages

Also we use some viruses like vaccinia (cowpox) to provoke an immune response to similar but more dangerous viruses like smallpox. Since there's no smallpox about any more you could say the vaccinia was useful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccinia
 

Offline SquarishTriangle

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What positive purpose does a virus have in nature.
« Reply #2 on: 22/06/2008 11:01:30 »
Possibly because we tend to be a little self-centric and study viruses from the perspective of the diseases they cause and how we can get rid of them.

If you consider that certain viruses are able to insert their own genetic information into the host genome and have it consequently expressed in the cell with adverse effects (eg. the insertion of a viral oncogene leading to neoplastic transformation), then it would be conceivable that, by random chance, the insertion of beneficial genes could also be possible. By a similar sort of principle, adenoviruses are used vectors in gene therapy as a means of inserting a specific normal copy of an absent or defective gene into a patient, thereby allowing expression of the normal gene to occur.
 

Offline chris

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What positive purpose does a virus have in nature?
« Reply #3 on: 22/06/2008 11:03:03 »
Hi Alan

Bored chemist raises a good point, which is that bacteriophages, which are bacteria-specific viruses, are very useful as antibiotics: http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/articles/article/virusesvssuperbugs/

...and as microbes become progressively more resistant to existing antimicrobial drugs, they are looking more and more attractive as an option.

It's also worth bearing in mind that viruses acts as biological ferries that can carry genes between different organisms and even different species. They can, therefore, contribute to genetic diversity. For instance there is a sacoglossan sea slug that contains plant genes capable of keeping chloroplasts (photosynthetic organs) alive in the slug's body. These slugs eat algae (marine plants) and move the chloroplasts from the algae to their skin where they are used to capture energy from the Sun for the slug.

Scientists suspect that, at some point, a virus was responsible for accidentally adding the correct genes from plants to the slug's DNA, enabling this clever trick to take place.

So viruses, whilst making us ill on and off, also contribute to evolution and diversity and therefore make the world a genetically better place!

Chris
 

Offline Alan McDougall

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What positive purpose does a virus have in nature?
« Reply #4 on: 22/06/2008 11:44:52 »
Hi Chris,

Quote
So viruses, whilst making us ill on and off, also contribute to evolution and diversity and therefore make the world a genetically better place!

Chris I find that viruses might be partly of completely responsible for evolution a fascinating thought. As you know there are still unexplainable aspects to the standard evolutionary theory of advantageous mutation,natural selection and survival of the fittest. Viruses might cause these mutations to somehow sustain their own existence

The ate nasty critters at the best of ties are they not

You really might be onto something here what an original thought.

Regards

Alan
 

blakestyger

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What positive purpose does a virus have in nature?
« Reply #5 on: 22/06/2008 16:34:40 »
There is no purpose to nature so teleological explanations for why things have evolved the way they have are invalid - as purpose implies a design/designer. The reason that there is such a huge diversity of viruses is that they are able to mutate very quickly in response to changes in their environment - plus all the reasons chris has given.
« Last Edit: 22/06/2008 16:36:23 by blakestyger »
 

Offline @@

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What positive purpose does a virus have in nature?
« Reply #6 on: 25/06/2008 14:59:48 »
hello all nasal nasty ingurgitators, it is i "jay" who emailed this question, i call myself @@ on most forums, anyhoo thanks for the great response, i believe the question will be on one of the shows, im looking forward to that
 the idea of bolstering the imune system did cross my mind but the post by "make it lady" was something i hadnt thought of.
 
 

blakestyger

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What positive purpose does a virus have in nature?
« Reply #7 on: 25/06/2008 19:32:31 »
You've stuck this in the wrong place. ;D
 

Offline Alan McDougall

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What positive purpose does a virus have in nature?
« Reply #8 on: 25/06/2008 20:15:17 »
@@


Quote
hello all nasal nasty ingurgitators, it is i "jay" who emailed this question, i call myself @@ on most forums, anyhoo thanks for the great response, i believe the question will be on one of the shows, im looking forward to that
 the idea of bolstering the imune system did cross my mind but the post by "make it lady" was something i hadnt thought of[/quote[/color]]

What the heck are you writing about ???
 

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What positive purpose does a virus have in nature?
« Reply #8 on: 25/06/2008 20:15:17 »

 

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