Koala pandemic reflects how intimate we are with viruses

12/6/2012 | Slate

Koala bears in Australia have been ravaged by a retrovirus for the past 150 years, making them more susceptible to cancer and infections. The virus has also been incorporated into their DNA, something that has occurred at least 31 times in the human genome, according to Aris Katzourakis of the University of Oxford. The viral material that gets inserted into DNA may lose its pathogenic characteristics over time and may even confer benefits, but in some cases, it can actually predispose carriers to cancer and other ailments.

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