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Computer Virus Analogy

brett brett at BORCIM.WUSTL.EDU
Tue Jan 2 20:48:00 EST 1996

>A weakness that a computer virus has is that it must be identifiable.
>When a virus tries to infect another program, it has to check that a
>copy of itself is not already contained within the program. If this 
>check is not performed, the infected program may crash, or grow 
>exponentially in size. 
>For a computer virus to check that it has not already infected a program,
>it must check some characteristic that is uniquely identifiable. It is
>this identification that virus hunting programs can look for.
>I was wondering if there is an analogy in the biological world. When a 
>virus infects a cell, I would have thought it would be counter productive
>for a second infection.
>Is it known how many times a single cell can be infected ? 
>Pete Leaback.

Interesting post, Pete. However, I have seen source codes for several successful
computer viruses (available via 40Hex), and I haven't yet seen them perform this
check you speak of. Like biological viruses, computer viruses are mainly geared
toward two things...replication and replication. However, one could think of
specific immune responses as self-training antiviral programs. Furthermore, you
can simultaneously infect a cell with many homologous viruses, if you have
enough virus to hit each cell many times statistically. However, it is sometimes
difficult to re-infect a cell with a heterologous or homologous virus once you
have established an infection, a phenomenon called superinefction exclusion. 
This may be due to competition for viral or cellular factors.

Brett Lindenbach
Program in Immunology                              
Washington University - St Louis                  
brett at borcim.wustl.edu                             

"I own my own pet virus. I get to pet and name her." - Cobain

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