Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Virus and evolution

  1. Apr 17, 2016 #1
    Will virus evolve into something else few decades from now?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2016 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Viruses have been around for probably as long as life has. They are alway evolving but they're still viruses.
  4. Apr 17, 2016 #3

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Viruses are not considered living - they do not and cannot ever metabolize. If you isolate pure tobacco mosaic virus into a solution then allow the water to evaporate the virus particles crystallize


    - From Wikpipedia Images

    You can let the virus sit in a jar as crystals then apply one crystal to a tomato plant and voila! it develops the disease.

    [scenario] == Virus invading a multicelluar organism - plant or animal. Virus can also do their thing on single cell hosts:

    Virus particles are inert and only display any activity when the virus is in direct contact with precisely the right kind of cell from the exact species it can use. It then injects itself (or sometimes only injects the viral genetic material) into the cell. It steals the cell's energy and resources to make many identical copies of its own viral genetic material plus the coating the material is packaged in. Eventually the cell's resources are depleted, the cell dies. The new virus particles float around in the host organism until they can take over another cell. One single virus can make hundreds of copies inside one cell. So, starting with a single virus particle, if every new virus particle the old one created finds a suitable home, in very short order all of the susceptible cells of the host organism are dead. Which may mean the host is dead, too. And you are left with just virus particles. ... and a dead plant or animal. LOTS of virus particles. Bad for the host, bad for the virus.

    You may wonder why the whole world is not covered with death and destruction - just virus particles everywhere. That is because there has been an evolutionary race going on between viruses and the organisms they parasitize. For eons. And virus particles out in the open may not resist UV light for example, so they need to stay under cover inside either a vector organism or a host. The Anopheles egyptii mosquito is the vector for the Zika virus for example.

    Think of it this way - if a virus kills off hosts too fast it may have a hard time being 'vectored' to another host. Vector is the agent that moves the virus from one host to the next. Virus particles in general do not stay safely out of their hosts/vectors for long. Rhinoviruses (colds) are vectored by suspended particles in the air or on the hands of infected people. After 15 minutes or so the suspended particles are no longer a problem for new hosts. So if colds make you sneeze for longer periods of time you are a source of viral infection for longer periods of time.
    If the cold virus killed you off in one hour, maybe it could not find a new host.

    Human DNA even has some viral DNA in it. I cited the paper in another thread on somewhat the same subject by the OP.

    So answer to the original question: No. Just as @Borg mentioned
  5. Apr 17, 2016 #4
    I wonder if viruses are examples of complex carbon chemistry prior to cellular life,
    or are they degenerate cellular life which exists only because they have enough DNA to be successful as parasites.
  6. Apr 17, 2016 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Nope. It takes many millions of years for a lineage to evolve into a very different type of organism. Ten years from now viruses will still be viruses.

    That's an open question in biology.
  7. Apr 17, 2016 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2017 Award

    Well the best way to think about what changes viruses might undergo in the next few decades is to think about the changes viruses have undergone in the past few decades. Most viruses have not undergone any significant changes. There have been a few new viruses that have emerged (e.g. SARS, MERS, as well as some influenza variants like H1N1), which have crossed over into humans from other species, so it's likely we'll see some other new viruses and flu variants emerge in the next few decades as well.
  8. Apr 17, 2016 #7
    What kind of variations do you think they might acquire after millions of years ? Will they get more powerful ?
  9. Apr 17, 2016 #8
    I agree with that :smile:
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted