Human viral carriers are important agents in the periodic resurgence of many pathogens. Instillation of virus in human carriers explains several of the unusual epidemiological features of viral epidemics, such as where viruses linger between epidemics and how epidemics can arise without an apparent source. By inactivating itself, a virus can easily reside in a host for months or years without being noticed by the immune system, enabling the virus to be dispersed inconspicuously in the future and into new regions. When this silent activity of human carriers is appreciated, it is easier to understand the dynamics of viral epidemics, such as the explosive appearance of influenza epidemics. During viral illnesses, virus in infected cells is put into a latent state by regulatory sequences delivered by particles produced by other virus-infected cells. These regulatory particles are similar to the virus's virion but contain specific subsets of the viral genome and cannot replicate in cells that are not infected by the complete viral genome. Regulatory particles have previously been referred to as defective interfering particles, noninfective viruses, inactive viruses, incomplete viruses, satellite viruses, and defective viruses. There are still many unanswered questions regarding viral carrier creation and the role human carriers play in the pathology and epidemiology of viral diseases. Some of these questions are presented and discussed in relation to regulatory particles, possible investigations and how carrier status may affect the health of the carrier. Viral regulatory particles limit the extent of viral infections and shift the active infection to a latent infection. Just as multicellular creatures use hormones as chemical messengers to coordinate cellular functions, viruses utilize regulatory particles to coordinate viral modes among infected cells within a host. Many viruses depend on these particles for their continued existence. If we wish to comprehend and effectively treat viral infections, we must secure a thorough understanding of viral regulatory particles.
(c) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.