Definition of virino in US English:


nounPlural virinos

  • A hypothetical infectious particle postulated as the cause of scrapie, BSE, and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, consisting of noncoding nucleic acid in a protective coat made from host cell proteins.

    Compare with prion
    • ‘In the virino model, the host protein protects the scrapie agent nucleic acid from degradation and prevents the host raising an immune response, since the protein/nucleic acid complex is seen as ‘self’.’
    • ‘A competing theory points to virinos (mini viruses), that are using particularly tough protein ‘shells’ to contain their small amount of nucleic acid.’
    • ‘Taxonomically this places virinos between conventional viruses and viroids (a class of plant pathogens which neither need nor code for proteins to be infectious).’
    • ‘Some scientists claim that because there are many types of TSE agent, the virino is a more likely explanation.’
    • ‘In support of the virino hypothesis is the existence of different strains of prions that cause differing patterns of disease and breed true; the existence of strains in pathogens is usually the result of changes in the nucleic acid sequence of the infectious agent.’


1970s: from virus + the diminutive suffix -ino.