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Virus structures constrain transmission modes


Here we investigate links between the structures of viruses and routes of transmission. Viruses show a wide range of different structures, and the transmission of viruses between vertebrate hosts can take place through many different routes. We compiled a database of 243 virus–host combinations and report a statistical analysis that documents the associations between structures and routes of transmission—for example, viruses that are transmitted by the faecal–oral mode of infection are rarely enclosed in a lipid envelope.

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Fig. 1: Summary of structures of human viruses and their modes of transmission.
Fig. 2: Associations between virus structures and modes of transmission.

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All of the data used are presented as tables in the Supplementary Information.

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We thank A. Abbas, P. Bates and L. Taylor for suggestions and comments on the manuscript; and L. Zimmerman for help with the manuscript. This work was supported by NIH grants R61-HL137063 and R01-HL113252, the Penn Center for AIDS Research (P30 AI 045008) and the PennCHOP Microbiome Program.

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Authors and Affiliations



F.D.B. conceived the work, assembled the initial database and wrote the paper. S.S.-M. and K.M. developed the electronic versions of the data, helped to reference the database and carried out the statistical analyses. S.S.-M. developed the statistical analytical strategy. K.M. developed the automated reference search strategy.

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Correspondence to Frederic D. Bushman.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–6.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Table 1

Data on classification, structure and transmission for viruses of humans, cats, dogs, cows, horses, pigs and chickens.

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Bushman, F.D., McCormick, K. & Sherrill-Mix, S. Virus structures constrain transmission modes. Nat Microbiol 4, 1778–1780 (2019).

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