Can viruses combine to create a Super Virus?

20 March 2012





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?


Infectious diseases consultant Estee Torok answered this infectious question...

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.


Does this mean it’s possible that bats which often carry rabies and corona viruses could combine in the same cell and produce a super virus with The deadliness of rabies and the ease of transmission of a coronavirus?

SARS, and SARS-CoV-2 are coronaviruses; bat rabies is a lyssavirus. The two entities are quite different in terms of structure, genetic code, mode of transmission, target cells and mechanism of disease. A recombinant merging the two is therefore unlikely. But more closely-related viruses can and do trade genes between themseves all the time. HIV is a good example.

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