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The viruses that make us: a role for endogenous retrovirus in the evolution of placental species
We currently think of a virus as an agent that necessarily reduce host fitness and generally cause disease, together with other pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. ...viruses can also invent systems of molecular genetic identity and superimpose a new combined identity onto the infected host. In so doing, a virus can allow the host itself to adapt to the environment and evolve quickly, providing a creative force that the host may further develop into systems of identity and immunity that can contribute directly to host evolution.
...the genomes of placental mammals are also highly infected with retroviruses found only in their genomes (endogenous) and because retroviruses are generally immunosuppressive, I examine the possibility that the embryo is acting like an infectious agent that produces virus to suppress the mother's immune system.
...parasitic viral-like genomes may represent one of the primary mechanisms for the evolution of higher order living systems.