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Does anything prey on viruses?

Discussion of the distribution and abundance of living organisms and how these properties are affected by interactions between the organisms and their environment

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Does anything prey on viruses?

Postby Zeyphon » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:59 am

This is just a question which I've always been curious about, and Google seems powerless to answer it for me. Does anyone know whether anything consumes viruses?

Thanks in advance.
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Postby biohazard » Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:09 am

That's a good question.

I have heard that some bacteria deliberately "eat" viruses by receptor-mediated intake, and then degrade them for raw materials for themselves. However, at least quick Googling didn't give me too many reliable results, so apparently if this is so, at least this phenomenon isn't very well known. Most viruses are found inside their host cells and because free viruses are usually short-lived, they may be too rare for nutritional purposes.

But then again, if you think about how ubiquitous viruses are in the environment, I'd be surprised if no micro-organism would try to take advantage of them as a source of proteins and nucleic acid precursors...

Some cells of the immune system (e.g. dendritic cells) also "eat" viruses among many other types of macromolecules. They do not do this for nutritional purposes, though, but in order to break down the virus and display viral antigens to other immune cells so that they can identify and fight this type of virus. As a result, the remains of the virus are recycled by the body's cells, so in a way they, too, eat viruses.
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Postby alextemplet » Tue Feb 24, 2009 4:45 pm

In fact there is a virus that preys on another virus:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virophage
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Re: Does anything prey on viruses?

Postby Zeyphon » Tue Mar 24, 2009 2:56 am

Thanks alot for the link and information guys, I apologize if the late reply is annoying but I've just been really busy. Around 40% of the stuff on the Wikipedia page went over my head(hopefully Grade 11 Biology will help with that next year) but what I understood of it was very interesting.
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