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Viral Poison Oak Control

Use Nature to Fight Nature
  [vote for,

It seems that just about every organism in the world has a virus that will prey upon it.

If you took the virus that naturally went after poison oak and use artificial selection to breed that virus for specificity (only going after poison oak) and lethality (killing it dead) you could develop a very nice product.

You could get rid of just the poison oak while not poisoning the ground for other things.

talldave, Dec 07 2011

Species specific diseases Species-Specific_20Diseases
Alvin was batting the same concept around a few weeks ago. [bungston, Dec 07 2011]

Rabbits in Australia http://en.wikipedia...abbits_in_Australia
A similar thing was attempted with rabbits in Australia [talldave, Dec 08 2011]

A similiar idea applied to the Tropical Soda Apple http://www.reeis.us...ctpages/203303.html


       Seems like a good idea to me. I suggest you replace the words 'poison oak' with 'a particular species of weed' for readability.
xaviergisz, Dec 07 2011

       Why don't we go ahead and eradicate wasps and mosquitos while we're at it? And we can get rid of poison ivy, ragweed, rats, slugs, annoying neighbor kids... Ecology isn't like Lego bricks; you can't just remove one piece and expect the rest of it to hold together.
Alterother, Dec 07 2011

       Ecology is more like Jenga. You could remove a brick and the whole shebang might hold together. Or it might not. Only one way to find out but no way of turning back
methinksnot, Dec 08 2011

       I understand the idea to be essentially a species specific herbicide for local application. The 'vector' for delivering the virus would be the gardener (spraying the virus directly onto the unwanted weeds) so the virus would not spread into the wild.
xaviergisz, Dec 08 2011

       I'm wondering whether you could engineer the virus such that it only works in the presence of a specific (but relatively innocuous) chemical. Thus you apply a combination of virus plus specific chemical to the weeds. Since the specific chemical doesn't occur naturally, the virus couldn't spread beyond its intended location.
xaviergisz, Dec 08 2011

       Some plant viruses will only spread by contact with sap, so it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom.   

       I wasn't thinking of eliminating poison oak from the face of the Earth, just from my 3 acres.   

       And simple selection should be able to isolate a and then apply selective pressure to a suitable strain, so genetic modification shouldn't be necesary.
talldave, Dec 08 2011

       I want this for mosquitos
simonj, Dec 09 2011

       //That's what viruses do// Yes, viruses sometimes mutate such that they are able to colonise new hosts or overcome chemical limitations, but they certainly don't do so because they "realise" something, or because they run out of food, or because their current host disappears!
spidermother, Dec 09 2011

       Apart from the anthropomiphising, you're implying that the mutation was caused by the condition that made the mutation beneficial - an enormous stretch, particularly for a virus.   

       The current understanding is that mutation is far more blind than that. Viruses mutate all over the place, in vast numbers, with the result that when a new niche becomes available there is a reasonable chance that some of the variants will be better able to exploit it.
spidermother, Dec 09 2011

       Your previous link ("How and why viruses mutate") makes the point that viruses in conditions of abundant host availability - such as large, crowded piggeries - are more likely to mutate and invade new host species; which makes sense, as it's basically a numbers game.   

       At best, the rate of variation can increase in response to unfavourable conditions, e.g. through an increased rate of plasmid exchange in bacteria, the favouring of sexual over asexual reproduction (hence the saying "a plant in need goes to seed"), or (plausibly) an increase in the rate of mutation. But mutating in a particular direction in response to a particular situation is essentially impossible; the virus cannot in any sense see how some new, altered genome will interact with its environment and alter the probability that that particular alteration will occur. Evolution - particularly via mutation - is blind.
spidermother, Dec 09 2011

       // The next time the same virus comes to a host cell, it may find that it is no longer able to attach to the cell's surface membrane. So to survive, viruses must adapt or evolve, changing its surface proteins enough to trick the host cell into allowing it to attach.// Bleh! That's the pathetic fallacy taken to the point of outright misinformation.   

       Viruses have an unavoidable, minimum, background level of mutation; some may have a higer mutation rate, and that may increase their success (although there's a tradeoff, as mutation is inherently destructive to the very genes that enable it). But //may find ... So to survive ...// again, bleh!
spidermother, Dec 09 2011

       Just to clarify 21 Quest's comment, there have been two different viruses released in Australia to control rabbit populations: Myxomatosis and calicivirus   

       Re: MFD, I don't think the idea should be classified as GM magic. The idea of creating a herbicide with a virus rather than a chemical as the active agent is plausible enough not to be called magic.
xaviergisz, Dec 09 2011

       21 Quest, you're right about some things and wrong about others here.   

       Firstly, yes - a released virus may spread, and may in theory infect other species. Noone here has actually denied this.   

       //Unless, when it runs out of food and realizes there is no more of that chemical around, it mutates to be able to work without that chemical, or perhaps adapts to be able to synthesize the chemical on its own. Then it spreads onto your neighbor's property to kill all of his/her poison oak (which they might not want to have done). Once there's no more poison oak, it mutates to be able to feed on the next readily available plant/animal so it doesn't die. That is what viruses do.//   

       That, however is wrong in a critical way. The virus is not thinking at all.
What actually happens is that when viruses replicate (copy themselves) inside a host cell, random changes sometimes occur in the genetic sequence. There's no planning involved - it just happens because the replication machinery isn't 100% accurate. The same thing happens to all living things, but some are more accurate than others.
So anyway, we have a range of different variants. Actually a wide range, because viruses are very numerous. Most of these changes are deleterious or completely lethal (to the virus, it'll just fail to infect a cell and produce desendants). However, some are beneficial in some way. A tiny percentage may be able to infect some other species - perhaps not very well, but enough to establish a 'toe-hold' from which further mutations improve.
Also, please note that there's no relationship to the initial outbreak - it could potentially happen early on; there's no connection to 'running out of food'.

       //From the Help File: //to make any organic matter do anything (just add genetics or, once people complain about the use of genetics as magic, "selective breeding")//   

       Your continual misunderstanding of this (and other mfd clauses) is why so many people think you're such a fool.
It's *not* saying that because someone mentions genetics you should mark it for deletion. It's saying that using genetic engineering (or indeed, any technology) as a way to do something which it wouldn't actually be able to do (because the author doesn't understand it) is grounds for a mfd.
Loris, Dec 09 2011

       ^ "1)" is because he has it rampant on his property. It took me 3 years to rid 1/4 acre of weeds (albeit the hard way sans weedkiller or fertilizer) and replace it with grass, and I live in a strongly bipolar climate.   

       You can't just pop the top off; you gotta remove the roots, and replace it with something else which needs to be watered and weeded until it takes over the area. It takes years for a lawn to be thick enough that you don't have to be after it every spare moment.
FlyingToaster, Dec 09 2011

       //I'm not saying such a Virus couldn't be made. I'm saying it SHOULDN'T be made because of the risk of losing control over it,//   

       I explicitly said that I didn't disagree with the possibility of such an escape. *please* go back and read my post again more carefully.   

       //... Viruses are Baked. Man-made viruses with the purpose of eliminating pest species are Baked. Use of plant viruses to control weeds in farming communities is Baked. Selective breeding is Baked. What's the invention here? So far all I see is essentially another flavor of icecream being proposed. Perhaps I chose the wrong MFD category, but I stand by the MFD anyway.//   

       In that case, yes - you chose the wrong reason to MFD. You meant [m-f-d] Flavor. Which I actually debated adding myself and decided against on the basis that my post was already too long.
Of course, now the idea has interesting debate on it, I wouldn't mfd it anyway.
Loris, Dec 09 2011

       There is a weird assumption that I'm proposing genetic modification. In a minor way, I suppose I am, not just in the traditional way of selection, not in the way of genetic engineering.   

       Consider starting with a batch of, say 100, small poison oak plants (not a job I would want). Infect them with a naturally occuring virus that targets poison oak. (This can be done by taking a sample of sap from an infected plant and applying it to a cut made in the new plant.)   

       Rate the results, and take the viruses from the half of the plants that fared the worst.   

       Repeat the process until the virus does a good job of infecting the poison oak plant.   

       As a safety measure, verify that the virus doesn't do a particularly good job of infecting another species of plant, so apply it to a sample of the most common local plants and also to members of the same family, say cashews.   

       In fact the reverse process could be used to provide a safety factor against species hopping. Splitting a sample in half and testing it for the ability to infect other (closely related) species and retaining only the ones that failed to infect could then select out a certain amount of potential for that species hopping.   

       You might wonder if this kind of process would yield results, and it might not, but considering the success of the Russian project where they domesticated foxes with just this kind of selection, it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.   

       Not to belabor the point, but I'm not proposing a genetically engineered superbug, just an artificially selected strain of naturally occuring virus.
talldave, Dec 14 2011


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