• Question: Can a virus kill another virus?

    Asked by #hashtag to Ceri, Marikka, Matt, Rob, Sally on 13 Nov 2014.
    • Photo: Robert Hampson

      Robert Hampson answered on 13 Nov 2014:

      I don’t know of any examples where this is the case.

      Viruses are small protein cases with a little bit of DNA inside, a few enzymes and a needle to inject the whole mixture into a host cell. They don’t have the machinery to produce things that could kill other viruses and they don’t really have anything that is killable about them.

      It has been observed that if you are infected with two similar viruses neither virus is as intense. This is probably because of competition for host cells.

    • Photo: Sally Cutler

      Sally Cutler answered on 13 Nov 2014:

      I would say no as a virus cannot produce anything like proteins until it can take over a host cell. If this was another virus, there would be no ribosomes to make any proteins, so there would be no way to kill or multiply.

    • Photo: Ceri Dare

      Ceri Dare answered on 13 Nov 2014:

      No – as Rob and Sally said, viruses aren’t really ‘alive’ in the first place.

    • Photo: Marikka Beecroft

      Marikka Beecroft answered on 14 Nov 2014:

      Viruses don’t have the machinery they need to multiply by themselves which is why the hijack other cells. They are also not technically alive because of this reason! So there is no reason to attack another virus because another virus can’t give it anything to help it survive or multiply.

      If two viruses of the same type infect one cell, what tends to happen is that they’ll combine their dna and all the viruses from that cell will contain DNA from the two original viruses! They always find a compromise…