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Origin of Viruses

By Grp 7 06 - Dagdag 17 - Uy 27 - Ip

Origin of the word virus


the Latin word virus referring to poison and other noxious substances

The 3 hypotheses on the origin of viruses


Progressive Hypothesis The Regressive Hypothesis The Virus-First Hypothesis

The Progressive Hypothesis

viruses originated through a progressive process Mobile genetic elements, pieces of genetic material capable of moving within a genome, gained the ability to exit one cell and enter another.

The Progressive Hypothesis


viruses may have evolved from bits of DNA or RNA that "escaped" from the genes of a larger organism. The escaped DNA could have come from plasmids (pieces of naked DNA that can move between cells) or transposons (molecules of DNA that replicate and move around to different positions within the genes of the cell).

The Regressive Hypothesis

viruses may have originated via a regressive, or reductive, process Viruses may have once been small cells that parasitized larger cells. Over time, genes not required by their parasitism were lost. certain bacteria that are obligate intracellular parasites, like Chlamydia and Rickettsia species, evolved from free-living ancestors

The Regressive Hypothesis


of eukaryotic cells and Rickettsia prowazekii may share a common, free-living ancestor existing viruses may have evolved from more complex, possibly free-living organisms that lost genetic information over time, as they adopted a parasitic approach to replication.

The Virus-First Hypothesis


may have been the first replicating entities viruses existed in a precellular world as self-replicating units over time these units, they argue, became more organized and more complex

The Virus-First Hypothesis

enzymes for the synthesis of membranes and cell walls evolved, resulting in the formation of cells Viruses, then, may have existed before bacteria, archaea, or eukaryotes

No Single Hypothesis May Be Correct

Where viruses came from is not a simple question to answer. One can argue quite convincingly that certain viruses, such as the retroviruses, arose through a progressive process. Mobile genetic elements gained the ability to travel between cells, becoming infectious agents. One can also argue that large DNA viruses arose through a regressive process whereby onceindependent entities lost key genes over time and adopted a parasitic replication strategy. Finally, the idea that viruses gave rise to life as we know it presents very intriguing possibilities.


Wikipedia (2011). Virus. Retrieved from

Wessner, D. (2010). The Origins of Viruses. Retrieved from Campbell, N. A., Reece, J. B., Mitchell, L. G. (1999). Biology. Canada: Solomon, E. P., Berg, L. R., Martin, D. W., (2002). Biology. United States of America: R.R. Donnelley Willard.