The Baffling Viruses That Infect… Other Viruses

The Baffling Viruses That Infect… Other Viruses

Start protecting yourself on the web at or use code SCISHOW and save 77%!

Scientists have discovered viruses that infect viruses… virusception, if you will. Does this mean viruses qualify as life yet? Or are they still hanging out in the misfits drawer with sporks and Pluto?

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89 Responses

  1. seasong says:

    Did you know mitochondria used to be different organisms, and that’s why they have different DNA from us?

  2. That1Valentian says:

    Viruses infecting other viruses? Not even viruses are safe from the sniffles.

  3. Software Man says:

    Dare i say… Viruseption?

  4. SciShow says:

    Start protecting yourself on the web at or use code SCISHOW and save 77%!

    • Gert Bolten Maizonave says:

      SciShow I have always ignored ads, but this one got me interested. Unfortunately the link is not working for me… I get redirected to a blank page at the go.nordvpn server. Maybe they are having second thoughts on this 77% over 3 years thing. 🤔

    • AlphaAlfred says:

      SciShow I want to know why @ the Rupauls Drag race finale of season 10, why did Asia O’Hara’s butterflies die during the lipsync, she has worked with them many times before and had never had this problem so what was up this time like what could have cause the butterflies to just die

    • Erik Carl says:

      the link dosnt work ;(

    • Taii potatoie says:

      Scishow could you do a video on iridology?

  5. vasilisdiaman GR says:

    Hi Hank

    *When you try to get a heart*

  6. BOSTASH says:

    sience is getting weirder i dont understand anything…

    • Halberdier says:

      It’s not science that is weird. It’s the world around us that is marvelous beyond comprehension.

    • BOSTASH says:

      wow… You described it really well

    • ryan rowe says:

      its beautiful isnt it?

    • Halberdier says:

      Check out relativity and quantum mechanics if you haven’t already. Prepare to have your mind blown.

    • Dennis Vance says:

      BOSTASH A fellow worker used to base his life on physics, literally. One day he came to me, shaking his head. Scientists had just revealed that more than 80% of everything in the universe was dark matter, and they have no idea what dark matter is. They removed the basis for his faith. He never really got over it.

  7. Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus says:

    Mi mi big virus

  8. Mohawkma Gandhi says:

    We need to go deeper, we need a prion for viruses!

    • Mohawkma Gandhi says:

      Its just a hypothetical situation but I would probably see why other prions work and try and make copies of the virus proteins with similar mistakes and see results.

    • Mohawkma Gandhi says:

      Hopefully making a virus prion would only affect virus proteins, but there would be several experimental trials before it got released to any medical or commercial setting.

    • ryan rowe says:

      Mohawkma Gandhi you’re right. But you would have to choose a capsid protein (tail fibers mutate way too quickly) and that protein couldn’t be present in any human cells or any of the bacterial symbionts in your body. Even then there’s a strong possibility the capsid protein would mutate.

    • ryan rowe says:

      Mohawkma Gandhi prions are the same as regular proteins just folded into a lower energy state. Regular, normally functioning proteins can spontaneously become prions at any moment. Theoretically you could develop mad cow disease without eating diseased tissue but it is just extremely rare. Idk how every prion replicates mechanistically but they all act as catalysts for themselves.

    • Mohawkma Gandhi says:

      Did some digging, turns out the body already produces a prion like particle (MAVS) to activate the innate immune response to double stranded DNA. Not sure exactly how it works but an interesting concept nonetheless!

  9. LCC says:

    I have a feeling the comments are going to be infectious.

  10. Dank Matter says:

    Taste of your own _medicine_

    I am super sorry

  11. Matteus Silvestre says:

    So… is it possible to combat the HIV with a mini-HIV?

  12. That1Valentian says:

    That feeling when SciShow themselves makes the Virusception joke before the commenters. Check out the video description.

  13. WeeWeeJumbo says:

    What baffles me is that they chose “-phage” for things that do not engulf

  14. Joshua Hillerup says:

    Is the question “are viruses alive?” or “do we want to consider viruses to be alive?”

    • Javier Powell says:

      Computer viruses and chainmails are irrelevant as they do not Evolve over time and instead stay exactly the same unless it’s in their code to change, even then that is planned while Evolution is random.

    • Tonixxy says:

      Joshua Hillerup they are more like a line of code.
      Hijacked lump of DNA or RNA that probability and cell processes made.
      There are even smaller things called Viroids, basically just strings of RNA that implant themselves into cells.

    • pmcdirewolf says:

      Hiraeth Neko-chan But you’re imparting intentionality on a completely random process, you’re almost anthropomorphizing nature itself.

      Most organisms don’t have a “self preservation” drive, they either have adapted survival mechanisms, or they’ve gone extinct. Your reasoning is ad hoc. They haven’t adapted things because they’ve tried to survive. Only the ones lucky enough to have the right random combinations _did_ survive.

      Viruses with bad wall linings don’t last long. Attributing will to this process is nonsensical, especially since no organism can _control_ what direction evolution takes. Especially since viruses don’t have sexual selection to account for, they just float along until they run into another cell.

      The vast majority of life on Earth, even quasi intelligent life, even us, arguably, don’t pursue some kind of intelligent agenda. It acts out a script written for it by ancestors who happened to survive.

      The comparisons above to chain letters and computer viruses are apt. Would you say that a chain letter has a “will to survive?” Or is it just a clever way to hijack human superstition and sentimentality to reproduce itself?

      Viruses have no metabolic process, no motor function, no defensive capabilities, nothing. They’re as inert as that chain letter, until they randomly run into something and attempt to embed themselves into it. They’re practically biological mouse traps, like little machines that spring into action when triggered. Would you say a mouse trap is alive? After all, you just said non living things can’t prey on others.

      By your own definition, something which has a will to survive and reproduce, well, almost _nothing_ is alive, not even most animals (arguably all of them.) But viruses _definitely_ don’t have those traits.

      Ultimately, the word life or alive, like all words not derived from first principles, is only coherent within a certain context, since everything is just chemistry and physics in varying degrees of complexity. So the cutoff point is inevitably going to be somewhat arbitrary. And slightly gradient at that.

      Where biologists cut it off more or less excludes viruses, because they have very little in common with what we consider living things.

      If you include viruses, you run into weird definitional problems. You have to consider DNA or RNA alive. You borderline have to consider things like “ideas” to be alive.

  15. John Cena says:

    I hate viruses…they make me sick

  16. A Vsaucy Boi says:

    Ah yes! Reminds me of England in good old Napoleon’s time. Did Napoleon blockade us? Looks like we’ll set up our own blockade

    • 21st century Jeronimo says:

      A Vsaucy Boi pink guy. Love it. The human race is mostly comprised of viruses as are all living creatures known as of yet so yeah they might want to consider a virus to be a living thing some of these scientists dudes are not that smart

  17. ziljin says:

    The only good virus is a dead virus.

    • isamuddin says:

      Rizki Anggoro that dumb superbug create his own demise creating protection against antibiotics but lowering their defence against viruses…

    • hpekristiansen says:

      P4INKiller something does not have to be inherently bad or good to be considered bad or good. -it is a language thingy. Stepping in a dog turd is bad.

    • dwarfie24 says:

      Pun intendes?

    • CaramelLeek says:

      Well I wouldn’t say that, since we humans have many pieces of viral DNA in our genome. We don’t quite know what they are for yet, but they are there and might have a purpose in our lives.

  18. Hanif Shakiba says:

    They can infect the infector..

    Infection ception

  19. Hanif Huzairi says:

    If we could find a virophage that attacks HIV, then the latter’s days are literally numbered.

  20. Upcycle Electronics says:

    If we discovered a virus native to Mars, would we say, “nope still no life here?” Seems pretty clear to me instead of the ‘we don’t want to fit it into our subjective file system.’

    • Garret Wang says:

      Anything that lived prior to the first cell must have been able to reproduce by itself, making it, by definition, NOT a virus. Same principle applies for anything found on Mars. We’d probably end up calling it something else.

    • Upcycle Electronics says:

      Garret Wang
      While there were probably many cells that reproduced but were not successful at passing on their genes, the odds of millions of variables coming together to make a successful reproducing cell means that through probability alone there were exponentially more incomplete structures formed. If the successful cell is one that is playing national lottery jackpot winning odds there were many many more that won smaller pots. They don’t need to reproduce to be prolific. They are simply representative of the enormous number of variables required to make a simple single cell organism. The simplest form of life takes many millions of variables in an exact combination in order to exist in the first place. It is most probable that multiple incomplete forms came together to create the first cell capable of reproduction. There is no need for the incomplete cells to replicate on their own. They are simply required because of the probabilities involved.

    • ryan rowe says:

      have you ever heard of prions?

    • Upcycle Electronics says:


      ….but I don’t have any…
      … Go Fish.

    • Tonixxy says:

      Current theory states RNA>DNA>CELL

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