Backseat Drivers: The Hidden Influence of Microbial Viruses on Disease

Curr Opin Microbiol. 2012 Aug;15(4):538-45. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2012.05.011. Epub 2012 Jun 11.

Abstract

Because viral replication depends on the vigour of its host, many viruses have evolved incentives of fitness to pay their keep. When the viral host is a human pathogen, these fitness factors can surface as virulence: creating a Russian doll of pathogenesis where pathogens within pathogens complicate the disease process. Microbial viruses can even be independently immunogenic, as we recently reported for leishmania-virus. Thus, the incidence of this 'hyperpathogenism' is becoming an important clinical consideration and by appreciating the microbial-virus as a backseat driver of human disease, we could exploit its presence as a diagnostic biomarker and molecular target for therapeutic intervention. Here we discuss the prevalence of clinically relevant hyperpathogenism as well as the environmental sanctuaries that breed it.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / pathogenicity*
  • Bacteriophages / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract* / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract* / parasitology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract* / virology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Virus Replication