Defective interfering viruses and their potential as antiviral agents

Rev Med Virol. 2010 Jan;20(1):51-62. doi: 10.1002/rmv.641.


Defective interfering (DI) virus is simply defined as a spontaneously generated virus mutant from which a critical portion of the virus genome has been deleted. At least one essential gene of the virus is deleted, either in its entirety, or sufficiently to make it non-functional. The resulting DI genome is then defective for replication in the absence of the product(s) of the deleted gene(s), and its replication requires the presence of the complete functional virus genome to provide the missing functions. In addition to being defective DI virus suppresses production of the helper virus in co-infected cells, and this process of interference can readily be observed in cultured cells. In some cases, DI virus has been observed to attenuate disease in virus-infected animals. In this article, we review the properties of DI virus, potential mechanisms of interference and progress in using DI virus (in particular that derived from influenza A virus) as a novel type of antiviral agent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Defective Viruses / physiology*
  • Genome, Viral
  • Helper Viruses / physiology
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / physiology
  • Viral Interference
  • Virus Diseases / therapy*
  • Virus Diseases / virology
  • Virus Replication


  • Antiviral Agents