Passenger virus

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A passenger virus is a virus that is frequently found in samples from diseased tissue, such as tumours, but does not contribute to causing the disease.

Experimental demonstration of passenger status[edit]

Proving that a virus has no causative role can be difficult. Although none of the following signs is definitive, evidence that a virus found in diseased tissue is a passenger rather than a causative agent includes:

  • injection of the virus into healthy animals without causing disease;
  • the absence of the virus at the earliest stages of the disease;
  • curing the viral infection using antiviral drugs or vaccination with no effect on the course of the disease.


A well-established example is lactate dehydrogenase virus, which is often found in mouse tumours.[1] GB virus C and Chandipura virus are possible examples in humans.[2][3] It has also been suggested that a virus related to Alcelaphine herpesvirus 1 is a passenger virus that, unlike AHV1 itself, doesn't cause bovine malignant catarrhal fever.[4] The discredited[citation needed] Duesberg hypothesis posits that HIV is a passenger virus in the etiology of AIDS.[5]


  1. ^ Mongini PK, Rosenberg LT (January 1976). "Inhibition of lymphocyte trapping by a passenger virus in murine ascitic tumors: characterization of lactic dehydrogenase virus (LDV) as the inhibitory component and analysis of the mechanism of inhibition". J. Exp. Med. 143 (1): 100–13. doi:10.1084/jem.143.1.100. PMC 2190100Freely accessible. PMID 1244415. 
  2. ^ Mphahlele MJ, Lau GK, Carman WF (June 1998). "HGV: the identification, biology and prevalence of an orphan virus". Liver. 18 (3): 143–55. PMID 9716223. 
  3. ^ Potharaju NR, Potharaju AK (March 2006). "Is Chandipura virus an emerging human pathogen?". Arch. Dis. Child. 91 (3): 279–80. doi:10.1136/adc.2005.074708. PMC 2065945Freely accessible. PMID 16492900. 
  4. ^ Metzler, Alfred E (January 1991). "The malignant catarrhal fever complex". Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. 14 (2): 107–124. doi:10.1016/0147-9571(91)90125-W. 
  5. ^ Duesberg P, Rasnick D (1998). "The AIDS dilemma: drug diseases blamed on a passenger virus". Genetica. 104 (2): 85–132. doi:10.1023/A:1003405220186. PMID 10220905.