In theory, any virus capable of infecting germ cells can plant its genetic load into the sperm/ova that will eventually become offspring. So are most viruses inheritable? Really, if your parents ever got a cold or the flu, you should be born with the virus already incorporated into your genetics. So are there loads of people walking around with inherited viral infections, and if not, why?

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    Are you asking about the portion of our genome which has been created by viruses? There's certainly plenty of sections of the human genome that is from viruses. Or are you talking about transplacental infection, as in a baby fetus is infected by a virus but the mother house (Ziika being the hot topic at the moment).
    – Atl LED
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 2:40
  • @AtlLED A viral infection is just the physiological manifestation of a virus injecting genetic material into a cell's genome. If this cell happens to exist in the offspring, then the offspring will "inherit" the virus, as in an ovum is infected and then the viral genetics are part of the offspring from conception Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 17:47
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    This IMHO is an absolutely fabulous question, @TheEnvironmentalist! Well done.
    – DoctorWhom
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 5:41
  • @DoctorWhom It is only the answer that is not so fabulous. However, I don't have the time nor the expertise to provide one.
    – Narusan
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 7:21
  • @Narusan Agreed, there is more needed, but it's not my area of expertise either. I'd love to see more discussion about it. BiologySE may actually be a better fit, as this is not unique to humans.
    – DoctorWhom
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 9:10

1 Answer 1


A Universal childhood virus is inherited in DNA.

A virus that causes a universal childhood infection is often passed from parent to child at birth, not in the blood but in the DNA, according to a new study.

... Her team is now investigating what this means for the children.

Researchers found that most babies infected with the HHV-6 virus, which causes roseola, had the virus integrated into their chromosomes. Not only that, but either the father or mother also had the virus in the chromosomes, suggesting it was a germline transmission – passed on in egg or sperm.


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    "Universal childhood virus" is not the name of a virus (at least not in the professional or medical field (zero hits for the quoted phrase in pubmed), just the headline of that article. I really think you need to change your first sentence so that's clear. HHV-6 is thought to have infected 60-80% of babies by 18 months, and can from the DNA, but the rate of infection from the outside is higher. New Scientist wasn't clear that the majority of congenital infections were from DNA, not the majority of HHV-6 infections. I also added the quotes.
    – Atl LED
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 3:12
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    I would have also changed the first sentence, but I think doing so would change the meaning of the post, so I leave it to you to change. My suggestion would be "HHV-6 can be passed through verticle transmission in about 1% of births in the US. Most (~86% of the 1%) of these cases originate from germ line transmission of the virus.
    – Atl LED
    Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 3:20

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