Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Cheating in the Viral World

Version 1 : Received: 11 June 2019 / Approved: 12 June 2019 / Online: 12 June 2019 (15:29:49 CEST)
Version 2 : Received: 21 April 2020 / Approved: 22 April 2020 / Online: 22 April 2020 (06:02:05 CEST)

How to cite: Leeks, A.; Ghoul, M.; West, S. Cheating in the Viral World. Preprints 2019, 2019060106. Leeks, A.; Ghoul, M.; West, S. Cheating in the Viral World. Preprints 2019, 2019060106.


The extent to which cheating occurs in the natural world has proved contentious. We suggest that viruses offer an exceptional opportunity for studying cheats, individuals that exploit the cooperative behaviour of others. In particular, we show that: (1) cheating is common in viruses; (2) there are many different types of viral cheat; (3) viral cheats offer novel problems for social evolution theory; (4) viruses offer excellent empirical opportunities for studying cheating; (5) cheating shows that viral populations experience substantial conflict, changing how we think about how viral infections evolve; (6) evolutionary theory about cheating could help us understand viral evolution; (7) a greater understanding of cheating in viruses could aid viral intervention strategies.


virus evolution; cheat; cooperation; social evolution; defective interfering genome; satellite virus


Biology and Life Sciences, Virology

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