What would the world be like if we didn't have viruses?

07 November 2010

Question

Hi Chris,  
I was at your talk last night in Sydney, infact I am the haggled looking lady who asked for your autograph! I do apologise for being rather spaced, I had just walked the length of Sydney to get there, had gotten lost and am pregnant. I also wanted to say what great work you guys do and I am amazed at how much science knowledge you have!
 
It was a great talk by the way and I have a question about it. What would the world be like if we didn't have viruses? Most life on earth is part of a food chain or other, or is symbiotic with others, even bacteria can be good for us and our guts, etc. So what is good about virusus? Is it just population control, could we manage that without them?
 
Thanks Naked Scientists!

Lorna

Answer

We put this question to Dr Stacey Efstathiou:

Stacey - We wouldn't have colds and flus, and I guess it could be a really nice place, but of course we've evolved with viruses, over millions of years. Our whole immune system has been evolved to respond to that infectious assault. So, if we didn't have viruses, our immune systems will be very different and what will the consequences of that be? I'm not sure, but maybe it wouldn't be very nice.

Chris - I think they would evolve anyway, to be honest.

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