ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF VIRUSES

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Though they are known to cause plethora of infectious diseases in man, plants and animals; viruses are very useful tools that can be exploited to the benefit of mankind and his environment. 

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  • Viruses are employed in the development of novel vaccines for the prevention of infectious diseases including those caused by pathogenic viruses and other pathogenic microbes.
  • Some viruses known as phage or bacteriophage that infect bacteria are used in bacterial taxonomy to classify bacteria. This is known as phage typing of bacteria; and in this technique the bacteria is classified based on the type of bacteriophage that they are susceptible to. And this has helped in the epidemiological containment of diseases especially in disease outbreak.
  • Viruses are employed in the production of antiviral drugs and diagnostics used for laboratory and clinical diagnosis of some infectious diseases.
  • Some viral particles can be used as pesticides to control rodents and pests in the farmlands.
  • Reverse transcriptase (RT) enzyme is an enzyme that catalyzes the transcription of RNA into DNA; and this enzyme is applied in recombinant DNA technology or molecular biology for the molecular manipulation of microorganisms especially viruses. RT which can also be called RNA-dependent DNA polymerase is mainly produced by viruses in the Retroviridae family (for example, retroviruses).
  • Viruses can also serve as vectors for the transmission of genetic materials (i.e., genes or DNA) from one organism to another. Typical example is adenoviruses and some phages which can be used as a cloning vector in gene cloning experiments.
  • Some viruses have been employed as anti-cancer agents for the treatment of cancer and other molecular (non-infectious) diseases.       
  • The study of viruses especially at the molecular level using cell/tissue culture techniques and electron microscopy has acquainted biologists with knowledge that led to the development of other fields such as cell and molecular biology. Such studies also led to the discovery of important cellular and metabolic components of cells that allowed scientists to understand the true nature of some molecular and infectious diseases of man.  

Further reading

Acheson N.H (2011). Fundamentals of Molecular Virology. Second edition. John Wiley and Sons Limited, West Sussex, United Kingdom.

Brian W.J Mahy (2001). A Dictionary of Virology. Third edition. Academic Press, California, USA.

Cann A.J (2011). Principles of Molecular Virology. Fifth edition. Academic Press, San Diego, United States.

Carter J and Saunders V (2013). Virology: Principles and Applications. Second edition. Wiley-Blackwell, New Jersey, United States.

Dimmock N (2015). Introduction to Modern Virology. Seventh edition. Wiley-Blackwell, New Jersey, United States.

Kudesia G and Wreghitt T (2009). Clinical and Diagnostic Virology. Cambridge University Press, New York, USA. 

Marty A.M, Jahrling P.B and Geisbert T.W (2006). Viral hemorrhagic fevers. Clin Lab Med, 26(2):345–386.

Strauss J.H and Straus E.G (2008). Viruses and Human Diseases. 2nd edition. Elsevier Academic Press Publications, Oxford, UK.

Zuckerman A.J, Banatvala J.E, Schoub B.D, Grifiths P.D and Mortimer P (2009). Principles and Practice of Clinical Virology. Sixth edition. John Wiley and Sons Ltd Publication, UK.

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