I think this might be a dumb question but since there is such thing as a senescent cell when during cell division, the cell is supposed to die but does not and causes problems for the human body. Since viruses are basically a hull enveloping some RNA, is it possible for "senescent cells" or something similar to exist or are the methods or reproduction of cells and viruses just too different for something like that to happen?

1 Answer 1


No, not really.

Cellular senecence is defined as an cessation in division of the cell. Viruses viruses are obligate parasites which don't contain any metabolic pathways themselves and rely on cellular machinery to replicate themselve, so once they exit the cell, there is no metabolic activity attributable to the virus. Because of this there is no possibility of senescence or even of something similar to senesence.

However, there are viruses that can integrate into the genome, such as the endogenous retroviruses, which are thought to be viruses that can no longer replicate, and have now become parts of our genome.

There are also viruses like Varicella virus and Epstein Barr virus and other herpes viruses that can lie latent in the body, sometimes for many years, before reactivating and causing further disease. The mechanisms by which this latency occurs are virus specific, but it is thought that the host immune system plays a large role in much of both the establishment of latency and reactivation of the infection later in life. A review on Varicella infection can be found here*, which explains mechanisms etc.

  • Sorel Front. Microbiol., 21 December 2018

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