What Is the Economic Importance of a Virus?

Almost all viruses are economically important, and two types are, by far, the most significant. First, insect viruses can be used as forms of pest control to protect cash crops. Second, widespread human viruses can greatly impact an affected area's economic output.

Common forms of insect viruses known as baculoviruses have become commonplace in contemporary farmers' pest control arsenals. These strains of viruses have the ability to infect over 600 different species of insects. Through using this virus as an insect repellent, farmers can save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year without exposing crops to harmful chemicals present in pesticides.

On the other hand, human viruses, particularly those that lead to deaths, can have major negative economic repercussions. For instance, Africa's Ebola virus resulted in economic losses of over $1.6 billion, crippling the national economies of Guinea, Sierre Leone and Liberia. In the same vein, the World Health Organization projects that the HIV/AIDS virus could subtract 1 percent from gross domestic product each year in a sizable number of sub-Saharan African countries. In South Africa, though, the World Health Organization suspects losses from the rampant HIV/AIDS virus could subtract upwards of 17 percent from the country's gross domestic product each year.