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Viruses Infected By Viruses

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  • How long till these things are linked to stuff like cancer?

    • Re:cancer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:17PM (#24505653) Homepage Journal
      Only a few years ago.
    • Re:cancer (Score:5, Informative)

      by linuxbert (78156) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:29PM (#24505763) Homepage Journal

      in fact Viruses have been linked to cancer. Human Pamplona Virus (HPV) is thought to be solely responsible for cases of cervical cancer. Hence the push to get them all vaccinated at a young age before they start having sex.

      • Re:cancer (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @10:01PM (#24505989)

        No, no! Human Pamplona virus is the one that makes seemingly healthy, sane people go running with the bulls!

      • Re:cancer (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mal-2 (675116) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @10:04PM (#24506007) Homepage Journal

        Human Pamplona Virus (HPV) is thought to be solely responsible for cases of cervical cancer.

        I believe you meant papilloma [wikipedia.org] (a virus that induces warts and similar growths), not Pamplona [wikipedia.org] (a town where you can be an idiot and get yourself gored by a bull).

        Mal-2

        • by cosmicaug (150534)

          Human Pamplona Virus (HPV) is thought to be solely responsible for cases of cervical cancer.

          I believe you meant papilloma [wikipedia.org] (a virus that induces warts and similar growths), not Pamplona [wikipedia.org] (a town where you can be an idiot and get yourself gored by a bull).

          Mal-2

          I do hope that he doesn't mean Pamplona

          August Pamplona

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by spoop (952477)
        Human Pamplona Virus? Is that the one that chases you through the streets?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ceoyoyo (59147)

        True, but those are viruses that infect humans. The point of this virus is that it infects another virus. Actually, when you read the article, it doesn't so much infect the mother virus as hijack the mama virus's hijacked replication machinery, which was originally co-opted from the host cell.

    • Re:cancer (Score:4, Informative)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:39PM (#24505837) Journal
      HTLV-1 causes changes in gene expression resulting in adult t-cell leukemia. This year my advisor had a paper on this very research detailing some of the changes which are involved: http://www.jbc.org/cgi/content/abstract/277/51/49459 [jbc.org] basically the idea is that the virus in its attempt to replicate its self using cellular machinery alters the expression of specific genes, Tax, CREB and histones. better explained from my advisor: "HTLV-I Tax functions to short circuit the normal regulation of cell cycle progression by abrogating the need for mitogen stimulation and blocking checkpoint controls, resulting in unregulated initiation of S phase." in other words, the virus kicks out some of the cell regulatory controls that at least in part prevent it from becoming a cancer cell.
  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:17PM (#24505651)

    We call it 3 stooges syndrome and Mr. Burns has it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:18PM (#24505667)

    "The fact that viruses can essentially get sick may change the debate over whether they are alive or not."

    Ya ... to the debate over whether the viruses that make the viruses sick are alive or not.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:42PM (#24505861)

      "The fact that viruses can essentially get sick may change the debate over whether they are alive or not."

      Ya ... to the debate over whether the viruses that make the viruses sick are alive or not.

      It's living viruses all the way down.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)
      Well they probably don't make themselves sick. Is there a neverending chain of viruses making other viruses sick? I suppose a PO box could, in theory, break the chain..
  • Software Viri too? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman (671371)

    So are software viruses alive too? The only difference is that one replicates with code in binary, the other uses code in chain of molecules.

  • by Nymz (905908) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:32PM (#24505789) Journal
    Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
    And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum,
    And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
    While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.

    - Augustus de Morgan [wikipedia.org], A Budget of Paradoxes

    While I haven't heard of a virus hijacking another virus, I have heard of researchers hijacking viruses to do good things. [dailygalaxy.com]
    • by sjs132 (631745)

      Hmmm... that got me thinking of "I am Ledgend" ... I think that premise started with the idea of hacking a virus to do "good things." I'd rather the scientist don't practice God, or at least if they do, they better take a whole lotta precautions before it comes back and bites someone in the butt.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        I was just thinking that right now, some stoner lying on their friend's couch in Los Angeles is saying "Dude! This is my big break! I just need to write a disaster film script about these giant man eating viruses before some other mofo steals it. I'll just get a little baked first..."
  • not alive (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rritterson (588983) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:37PM (#24505831)
    No, they are not alive even if they can get sick. Viruses, even infected ones, cannot self-replicate as they require the use of a host and host machinery. If you can find me a self-templating virus, then we'd have an interesting discussion...

    viruses infecting viruses is still cool though.
    • Re:not alive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Telvin_3d (855514) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:54PM (#24505943)

      Neither can thousands of other parasitic species. All the same no one debates the status of all sorts of fungus and ferns and others who tap directly into the circulatory system and other facilities of their host and cannot survive or replicate without them.

      If a true answer or classification as to whether viruses are alive or not comes about, I suspect it will be far more subtle and elegant.

      • Re:not alive (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @10:16PM (#24506107) Homepage Journal

        Those parasitic species know how to do cellular reproduction. They also know how to metabolize stuff. They interact with their environment, even if that environment is another species. Virus are just reproduction machines. If RNA is the software of biology, the individual living things are the computers, and a virus is just a floppy disk that can't do anything until you stick it into the computer.

        Actually, I think the whole issue is kind of meaningless. "Alive" is a concept we invented when it seemed pretty easy to tell living things from not-living things. Like all such concepts, it tends to break down as our knowledge of the world grows, and the old definitions become hard to apply. We just went through a similar issue with the word "planet".

      • Those parasite and fungus and whatnot, have their own cellular machinery with its own basal functionality, accepting energy, execrating toxins, dividing etc, so even if they need a SPECIFIC environment to reproduce (the host) the reproduction process/cellular division or cellular life process are still available ad-hoc... Virus OTOH lack everything. They are more or less only proteins encapsulating a RNA chains which really need to hijack a real cell to be able to do even the most basic operation. Virus hav
    • No, they are not alive even if they can get sick. Viruses, even infected ones, cannot self-replicate as they require the use of a host and host machinery.

      So we don't live off our host (earth)?

      We breathe the air around us, eat the plants/animals that surround us, make use of all the resources around us... I'd say the earth is, in a way, hosting us. Isn't it? ;-)

    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @10:24PM (#24506159) Homepage Journal

      Is a mule alive? It can't reproduce. Maybe you object because the mule is *made* of cells, each of which can reproduce, but your body is full of cells that can't reproduce, are they alive? What's reproduction got to do with being alive anyway? If you take a cell that can reproduce and mutate the gene that produces a necessary protein for the reproductive process, is the cell now dead? It can still metabolize, make other proteins and interact with its environment. When it no longer can, that's when we say it is dead. As such "living" already has a good definition, even if it isn't too strict, and that is the opposite of dead or, more precisely, "inert". Viruses are not just a package of DNA, (or RNA), they're also a system of proteins for delivering that package from cell to cell. A virus most definitely isn't "inert" in the same sense that a "dead" thing is. So if something isn't dead, what is it? Undead? We typically reserve that word for horror writers, and just say "alive".

      I think the objectionable aspect of calling viruses "alive" comes from people thinking of viruses as "pure information", they're not. They're complex machines that can cause their own replication in their environment. Their environment just happens to be living cells, which are also complex machines that can cause their own replication in their environment.. To accept that a virus isn't alive because it needs its environment means you have to accept that a cell that requires a water environment isn't alive, or all multi-cellular organisms are not alive. Are mitochondria alive? Are the cells that require mitochondria alive? How about yeast? How about that mule?

      • by rritterson (588983) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @01:39AM (#24506997)

        Parent is probably the most detailed response to my original post, so I'll address it, even though the chances (several hours after the article hit the front page) of someone reading or modding it are virtually nil.

        Comparing a virus to a mule is a false comparison. With objections to those who seek a single, simply, unified definition, the standards for a living mammal simply do not compare to those of a single celled organism, let alone a virus. The simple fact that a mule cannot reproduce does not negate the fact that it has virtually all of the reproductive machinery and virtually all of the capacity to reproduce, plus a few defects (and, in fact, some mules can reproduce). No virus is prevented from independent reproduction due to a simple defect or mutation.

        Saying that a virus 'lives' within a cell is a subtle argument that has merit. I find it lacking, though. To explain why requires an extension of my original argument: A virus, while able to harness the energy sources around it, does not have the enzymatic capacity to transmute energy sources into the ones it needs to survive and replicate. In addition, a virus is unable to respond to changing conditions around it, such as increased heat, a modified energy source, etc. Within the 'lifespan' (using the term loosely), a virus invades and replicates, period. Our cells can respond to various signaling components, change metabolism based on condition, and reproduce when asked. A virus simply cannot.

        Mitochondria are not alive, because they cannot survive outside the confines of the cell, let alone replicate. Is your heart alive? By the very same token, yeast are indeed alive. Mules are alive, though reproductively deficient. Following the same idea, and borrowing your definition, a robot that could create another copy of itself would be considered alive in the 'environment' of the factory where it was built.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by tpjunkie (911544)
          Actually, mitochondria do replicate within the cell, contain their own genetic material and ribosomes and even contain the genes for a full set of their own tRNA molecules. They simply do not have enough genetic information to survive on their own, outside of a cell. I would argue that they are conditionally alive; they replicate on their own and can perform respiratory functions (albeit requiring the usage of host cell proteins) yet cannot "live" on their own apart from a cellular host.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      *I* can't self-replicate, and I'm alive.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by BobNET (119675)

        *I* can't self-replicate, and I'm alive.

        But you're on Slashdot, and therefore have no life.

    • I don't think life means what you think it means, but therin lies the rub. We do not even have a clear definition of 'life' that science can agree on. To me, if it's made of genetic material and proteins and has a survival strategy then it is alive.

    • Re:not alive (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nospam007 (722110) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @11:29PM (#24506475)

      > No, they are not alive even if they can get sick. Viruses, even infected ones, cannot
      > self-replicate as they require the use of a host and host machinery. ...

      So cuckoos aren't alive either, since they rely on somebody else's 'machinery'?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      No, they are not alive even if they can get sick. Viruses, even infected ones, cannot self-replicate as they require the use of a host and host machinery. If you can find me a self-templating virus, then we'd have an interesting discussion...

      But most people would consider say a tape-worm to be "alive". Just because it lives off a host does not make it non-alive. For that matter, even humans depend on bacteria to help us digest our food. To go lion-king on ya, we are all one big circle of interdependent li

  • by HeadlessNotAHorseman (823040) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:47PM (#24505895) Homepage

    So a virus that attacks viruses eh? I wonder if there a virus that attacks the virus that attacks the viruses? And a virus that attacks the virus that attacks the virus that...er...well, you know what I mean. And what if the first virus evolves to attack the last virus....every time you get one of those mysterious unidentified itches it could just be a ring of viruses all chasing each other around in circles!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @09:50PM (#24505921)

    To me, the issue of how to define "life" is only a small side note to this discovery.

    Far more important are the consequences for medicine. Viruses can be attacked by other viruses. This is huge. Compared to bacteria, viruses have been very difficult to beat. Infectious bacteria can be combated by using anti-biotics, bacterio-phages and other means. Whereas viruses are significantly more hardy, and combating them directly is difficult. But this discovery opens the door to engineering virophages to attack viruses in our bodies that make us sick.

  • by Carbon016 (1129067) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @10:04PM (#24506005)

    saying something is "alive" or "not alive" holds about as much weight as saying it's a "froodle doo". if the definition is standardized it should be easy to define: if not, what does it matter what we call it as long as we know what it does? attempting to apply terms that apply well to one group, from species to kingdom, to another group almost always ends in failure for this reason.

    shame on the virologist for perpetuating this craziness. the real cool part about this finding is its possible medical applications.

  • summary = wrong (Score:5, Informative)

    by fatduck (961824) * on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @10:12PM (#24506073)
    Summary is totally misleading. The story isn't about viruses "getting sick" - it's about a certain type of satellite virus (not new) that can only infect a host that is already infected by another virus. Essentially the satellite virus is competing with the original virus for metabolites. The discovery here is that for the first time a satellite virus is competing for these resources to such an extent that it is actually destroying the original virus.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      you're still misleading, albeit slightly. One virus, called Sputnik, infects cells that contain another virus, called a mimivirus. Sputnik can only survive (ie replicate etc) in the presence of that mimivirus. The study shows that sputnik only appears in those regions where the mimivirus is being made. The presence of sputnik in those regions negatively affects the viability of the mimivirus. Therefore, the authors conclude, sputnik is a parasite of the mimivirus.

      That is the main thrust of the story.

      A vague

  • For the classical definition of Living Organism, the virus are not alive; but is that definition correct? Virus contains DNA and reproduce by theyself. Although Don't eat, don't grow. But is not just an death element.
    Even the prions are "quasi-quasi-living" proteins, no DNA, but make other cell reproduce copies of they.
    Well any good definition to Living Organism?.

  • Alive or not? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3NO@SPAMjustconnected.net> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @11:29PM (#24506471)

    Our definition of 'alive' is flawed. Virii, plasmids, prions, etc. are not alive, but they aren't just arrangements of molecules either. They're in some sort of limbo.

    Add to that the fact that this doesn't seem to infect other viruses, just uses a specific MHCI protein as a binding site that happens to be produced by another virus. In which case it's not that interesting.

    This is more interesting in and of itself than it is to 'our belief of what life is' or something. We've known that 'life' is a pretty flaky definition for a while now.

  • Did anyone else immediately think of software viruses when reading the summary title? (Given the previous article's title)
  • Those damn students, can't they do _anything_ right? When learning to write viruses, the first thing they do is infect other viruses. Oh hell...

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