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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2011 Feb;9(2):99-108. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro2491. Epub 2011 Jan 4.

The good viruses: viral mutualistic symbioses.

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  • 1Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Plant Biology Division, Ardmore, Oklahoma 73401, USA.


Although viruses are most often studied as pathogens, many are beneficial to their hosts, providing essential functions in some cases and conditionally beneficial functions in others. Beneficial viruses have been discovered in many different hosts, including bacteria, insects, plants, fungi and animals. How these beneficial interactions evolve is still a mystery in many cases but, as discussed in this Review, the mechanisms of these interactions are beginning to be understood in more detail.

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