Could This Virus Be Good For You?

Viruses are usually thought of as the bad guys — causing everything from Ebola and AIDS to hepatitis and measles. But scientists have been following the curious story of a particular virus that might actually be good for you.

The virus is called GB Virus-C, and more than a billion people alive today have apparently been infected with it at some point during their lives, says Dr. Jack Stapleton, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Iowa.

At first, the scientists who named the virus thought it caused hepatitis in a surgeon (whose initials were “GB”). But it turns out the virus actually came from a small monkey — a marmoset — that had been used in an experiment to diagnose the surgeon. GBV-C had nothing to do with the surgeon’s illness, but that serendipitous finding has led researchers on a globe-trotting investigation of the life and times of this microbial hitchhike


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