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.


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