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Professor Kevin Dalby Speaks on Viruses: They’re Not All Bad

Originally published on

The negative media that surrounds such an unpredictable pandemic will make anyone who watches concerned about the coronavirus. For some, it will even create a stereotyped fear against all viruses. Fortunately, not all viruses deserve a terrible report. Specific viruses have excellent reputations and benefit humans, plants, and even the journey to finding cures for cancer.


Dr. Kevin Dalby, Austin local professor at The University of Texas, is currently working on cancer drug discovery and has seen beneficial viruses in the mix. Dalby is co-director of the Texas Screening Alliance for Cancer Therapeutics, and the principal investigator on a $2.3 million CPRIT grant that gives Texas scientists access to resources for drug discovery research. The doctor says that it is vital to not categorize all viruses as dangerous, for there are those out there that serve functional well-being purposes. Below, Dalby dives deeper into what viruses should receive a positive light.


Viruses that are Good for Humans & Animals

Certain viruses are common in the mammal world, often our gastrointestinal tracts are full of them. For example, Bacteriophages inhabit the human gut and mucus. These are viruses that contaminate bacteria. Frederick Twort made their discovery over a hundred years ago. In today’s world, bacteriophages are even used as a therapeutic tool to assist in managing bacterial infections.


Many humans are often infected with the gamma-herpes viruses. Like bacteriophages these viruses can provide protection from bacterial pathogens.


Latent herpes viruses harmonize with the immune system and are naturals at cell killing. These viruses can even take out mammalian tumor cells as well as cells overpowered with pathogenic microorganisms.


In the animal kingdom, a mouse’s immune system and intestines successfully develop with the help of a virus called murine (mouse infecting) norovirus. This virus acts as a nurse aid, helping to restore function and morphology when needed.


Viruses that are Good for Plants

Plants are very thankful for viruses. Some even rely on a virus’ infection for survival. These specific plants reside in Yellow Stone National Park growing among the few that survive the high-temperature earth around the geysers. The soil in this area rises to a burning 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants, like species of tropical panicgrass, rely on a virus-infected fungus for survival from the heat. It is actually a necessary symbiosis where a fungus populates the grass, and a virus contaminates the fungus.


Viruses that are Good for Cancer Treatment

Viruses are on the frontier of pioneering cancer treatments. There is a group of reasonably common and very contagious viruses to take note of called adenoviruses.  You might be familiar with some of its members, that cause bronchitis, pneumonia, and meningitis. This family contains one particular virus strain, type 52 (HAdV-52), that is used in innovative cancer treatments to deliver viruses to patients containing specific genes to defeat cancer. The type 52 strain binds to the same carbohydrates found in cancer cells, opening a lot of hopeful avenues for the future of virus-based cancer therapy.