Do plant viruses attack animals, if yes please give an example of the virus.

I feel both plant and animal viruses are different, and they cannot attack each other hosts.


1 Answer 1


Plant viruses attacking animals or vice versa would mean that an animal serves as a biological vector to a plant or that a plant serves as a biological vector to an animal (depending on whose prospective you take by considering it as the host). This is highly unlikely

  1. due to very different properties of the plant and the animal cells, while the virus has to be adapted to replicating in both
  2. due to the nature of the interactions between the plants and the animals which are unfavorable to transmission between viral habitats (unlike, e.g., direct blood exchange between an animal and a stinging insect).

On the other hand, plants and insects routinely serve as mechanical vectors for transmitting viruses: an insect feeding on one plant may carry virus particles to another plant, and similarly a plant may mediate viral particles exchange between insects.

See Viral Ecology by Hurst et al.

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    $\begingroup$ WRT different properties, note that many (most/all?) animal viruses are even more specific. They attack only one or a few cell types in the animal. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jan 25, 2021 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf indeed, but they can attack different species - e.g., a human and a mosquito. $\endgroup$
    – Roger V.
    Jan 25, 2021 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ But are mosquito-borne viruses actively infecting the mosquito, or are they just carried by it, in the same way that airborne viruses are carried in droplets? That is, mosquito sucks some blood from an infected person, virus floating around in that blood gets transmitted to the next person bitten. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jan 26, 2021 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf It depends on the virus and the insect. In your scenario the insect is still a mechanical vector - it only carried the virus. However some viruses do take active use of the alternate hosts. Flaviviruses (Zika, Dengue, Yellow fever, West Nile) are an example. Not only they reproduce in a mosquitor, but they can even be passed vertically to their progeny. On the other hand, there is no horisontal tarnsmission between mosquitoes for physiological reasons (mosquitoes do not exchange body fluids). It is still specific in the sense that it infects a particular species of mosquito. $\endgroup$
    – Roger V.
    Jan 26, 2021 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. I learned something new :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jan 27, 2021 at 5:08

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