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Immunol Cell Biol. 2001 Feb;79(1):62-6.

Genetic 'budget' of viruses and the cost to the infected host: a theory on the relationship between the genetic capacity of viruses, immune evasion, persistence and disease.

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Gadi Research Centre, Division of Science and Design, University of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.


The nature of the pathogen-host relationship is recognized as being a dynamic coevolutionary process where the immune system has required ongoing adaptation and improvement to combat infection. Under survival pressure from sophisticated immune responses, adaptive processes for microbes, including viruses, have manifested as immune evasion strategies. This paper proposes a theory that virus immune evasion can be broadly classified into 'acquisition' or 'erroneous replication' strategies. Acquisition strategies are characteristic of large genome dsDNA viruses, which (i) replicate in the cell nucleus; (ii) have acquired host genes that can be used to directly manipulate responses to infection; (iii) are often latent for the lifetime of the host; and (iv) have little or no serious impact on health. Alternatively, erroneous replication strategies are characteristic of small genome RNA viruses, which are recognized as being the cause of many serious diseases in humans. It is proposed that this propensity for disease is due to the cytoplasmic site of replication and truncated temporal relationship with the host, which has limited or removed the evolutionary opportunity for RNA viruses to have acquired host genes. This has resulted in RNA viruses relying on error-prone replication strategies which, while allowing survival and persistence, are more likely to lead to disease due to the lack of direct viral control over potentially host-deleterious inflammatory and immune responses to infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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