Mr. Burns, I'm afraid you are the sickest man in the United States. You have everything. Mr. Burns:
You mean I have pneumonia? Doctor:
Yes. Mr. Burns:
Juvenile diabetes? Hysterical pregnancy
Uh, a little bit, yes. You also have several diseases that have just been discovered - in you. Mr. Burns:
I see. You sure you haven't just made thousands of mistakes? Doctor:
Uh, no, no, I'm afraid not. Mr. Burns:
This sounds like bad news. Doctor:
Well, you'd think so, but all of your diseases are in perfect balance.
One of the characters has a disease that is useful in some way. Perhaps it protects him/her from another, more deadly disease. In other cases, the disease might be fatal but give the person extraordinary powers.
This trope is related to diseases that can be cured by either a medical treatment or the body's self-defense mechanism. The characters may elect to not cure or prolong the infection to gain the maximum benefit from the disease. For immunity/superpowers arising from disabilities of a more permanent nature, (disabilities caused by genetic mutations, accidents or general inborn traits), see Disability Immunity
. For example, sickle-cell anemia that arises because of a genetic mutation resulting in lowered life expectancy, but also provides a degree of immunity against malaria, is Not an Example
of this trope. It is an example of Disability Immunity, since sickle cell anemia is permanent. On the other hand, cowpox, which is a disease that provides immunity to a much deadlier disease called smallpox, is a good example of this trope.
Another potential case of this trope could perhaps be in Video Games
or Tabletop Games
, wherein the rules could state that they could only have one disease at a time, so having a lesser disease can be beneficial because it prevents you from being infected by worse diseases.
Also related to One Curse Limit
. Compare Curse That Cures
, when a sick or injured character seeks out a Curse
because it will cure them as a side effect. When something spreads
like a disease but doesn't have harmful effects, see The Symbiote
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- In a candy bar commercial, Bart Simpson is diagnosed with Butterfingeritis. Homer grumbles, "Why does Bart always get the good diseases?"
Anime and Manga
- Baoh is about a man with a parasite which gives him super-powers but is still eventually fatal.
- Matou Kariya from Fate/Zero is infected with worms that will ultimately kill him, but infuse him with enough magical power to summon and control Beserker.
- A Tokyo Mew Mew episode featured a Chimera Anima with a smelly fart attack. Mew Pudding just happened to have a cold that day, so...
- In the 25th episode of Mushishi, "Eye of Fortune, Eye of Misfortune", a woman was blind until a mushi entered her eye and allowed her to see again. Of course, it also eventually allowed her to see through objects and then into the future, before crawling out of her head and taking her eyes with it
- The Eclipse Virus in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force kills its victims horribly unless they drain life from others. It also grants them Anti-Magic and other powers to make the life draining easier.
- No less than three of Empowered's teammates got their powers from alien venereal diseases.
- In Phenomenon, John Travolta's character develops hyperintelligence and even psychokinesis because of what is eventually discovered to be a terminal brain tumor.
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Alice gains superhuman strength, speed and agility because the T-virus that infected her has bonded with her on a cellular level.
- Doom. The Martian virus either turns you into a horrible monster, or gives you superstrength, limited bursts of speed and insane hand-eye coordination. The monsters know who will get which effects before trying to infect them. Reaper didn't know, but he sure benefited from it.
- In Daybreakers, vampirism is a disease which apparently started with bats. It gives the classic vampire weakness to sunlight, but cures all sicknesses, including cancer, and stops the aging process, as long as the recipient continues to have some human blood every day.
- According to the backstory of Underworld is that the original immortal Alexander Corvinus became one after a deadly plague that wiped out pretty much everyone else in the area mutated in his body, giving him eternal life. Later, he had three sons, two of them inherited the active form, while the third was a normal human but with a latent form of the virus. The first two sons, twins, were bitten by a wolf and a bat, further mutating the disease into lycanthropy and vampirism, respectively. Both species have superhuman strength and speed, as well as eternal life and perfect health. The only real disadvantages are weaknesses to silver (Lycans) and UV rays (vampires), although the original Lycans couldn't control themselves and went on a rampage.
- The science fiction novel The Skinner by Neal Asher is set on a Death World that has this gigantic leech whose bite carries a virus with interesting properties, rendering "victims" super strong and nearly immortal and indestructible. Almost all animals on-planet are infected by it, as are most humans who live there. The real downside is that the evolutionary "purpose" is so predators can have permanent prey, and even if you can't die, it doesn't mean you can't feel pain/suffer a Fate Worse Than Death.
- At one point in The Dresden Files Harry is captured by vampires while dying of poison, with the result that the vampires can't drink his blood without becoming poisoned.
- This is pretty much the entire plot of Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. Carriers of the parasite enjoy super strength, enhanced senses, and extended lifespan. Unfortunately most people who get infected become feral with a craving for blood and aversion to things they loved before you infection. And the parasite is very contagious, kissing is enough to infect someone.
- In the new Foundation Trilogy, there is a disease called brain fever. Experienced by virtually all highly intelligent people, it seems to blunt intelligence but has a key beneficial effect for Hari Seldon it makes him immune to R. Daneel's powerful Giskardian telepathic powers.
- Lycanthropy in the Anita Blake novels is depicted as a blood-borne disease that kills all other diseases and foreign substances (like toxins) in the carriers. You turn furry once a month, but can't ever get sick with anything else again. It's enough of a disease that there's even a vaccine, though a bad batch can actually turn you into a lycanthrope.
- In Naked Lunch, Dr. Benway discusses curing several terminal catatonics by getting them addicted to heroin.
- In the Newsflesh world, both Marburg Amberlee (a cure for cancer) and "Kellis flu" (a cure for the common cold) were meant to be this trope. Unfortunately for that world, no one knew that when those two engineered viruses met, the result would be a Zombie Apocalypse. A cancer- and cold-free Zombie Apocalypse, granted.
Live Action TV
- Possible Trope Codifier in the Red Dwarf episode "Quarantine", which features the crew discovering various positive viruses such as "Luck", "Joy", and "Sexual Magnetism". (Cat comments: "Sexual magnetism's a virus? Then get me to a hospital, I'm a terminal case!") The are used in a later episode to help our heroes escape (and Rimmer uses Sexual Magnetism for...well, it's obvious.)
- In Terra Nova, a flu infection provides the main character immunity from another infection that wipes the person's memory
- In an episode of Stargate SG-1, the characters receive a number of armbands that bestow superpowers on the wearers. They work by infecting the wearer with a virus that causes the changes. Unfortunately this means that the armbands only work for as long as it takes the body to develop an immunity to the virus.
- In "The Broca Divide," Daniel and the Dr. Fraser's allergies make them immune to the week's malady because of the antihistamines they take.
- Stargate Atlantis has a downplayed example. Sheppard finds himself resistant to Lucius Lavin's mind-control pheromones, because he has a cold and can't smell anything.
- Look Around You has a disease called "Cobbles", which causes the skin to take on the appearance of stone until the victim looks like a pile of rocks, but also grants the ability to fly. The scientist who discovered a cure for the disease, a sufferer himself, opted not to use it because he liked being able to fly so much.
- An episode of Smallville featured a little boy with a brain tumor that gave him telepathy. It's revealed to be fatal in a later episode, however, and they are unable to reach an expert who could possible save him before it's too late.
- One the abducted women in the Criminal Minds episode "The Uncanny Valley" was diabetic, which somehow allowed her to metabolize the paralytic drugs she was given at a faster than usual rate.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 2 episode "Killed by Death", Buffy's flu makes her sick, but also allows her to see the demon of the week, which had been killing sick children in the hospital for years..
- Several "evil" diseases in Dungeons & Dragons provide growing bonuses at the cost of penalties in other areas, in effect becoming a Deadly Upgrade. The fans were quick to notice that the prestige class cancer mage from the very same book can adapt to diseases, hoarding bonuses while ignoring the penalties...
- For that matter, Lycanthropy, at least in 3rd. Getting bitten by a "natural" lycanthrope causes you to turn into a slightly weaker (lower damage reduction and can't infect others) "afflicted" lycanthrope and you involuntarily transform every full moon until you become aware of your condition and transform voluntarily, which changes your alignment to the specific species alignment. If you're lucky you get bitten by a Werebear, they're Lawful Good.
- In Warhammer, this is Nurgle's hat. Since he is a Plague Master god, his servants become ravaged with all sorts of plagues but the effects don't kill them. They look utterly disgusting but not a bit weaker for it; they are actually harder to kill because they don't need to worry about things like infected wounds. Also they Feel No Pain, and the diseases they spread can (and generally will) still be lethal to non-believers.
- While most werecreatures of Werewolf: The Apocalypse are born as such, Ratkin are an exception: They're ritually infected with a disease called the Birthing Plague. Only those related to Ratkin have a chance of surviving it and, after several weeks of hallucination and homicidal rage, becoming wererats themselves. The plague still runs in their blood and renders them immune to any other disease.
- From Generation II onward, the main Pokémon video games have had the Pokérus virus. If you're very, very lucky, a wild Pokémon you fight might just spread Pokérus to one of your Pokémon. With this condition, that Pokémon will gain twice as many effort points (effort values are a complex hidden stat-growth mechanic, look it up) when an enemy mon is defeated. Basically, it will save you time when trying to fine-tune your Pokémon's stats. It can be spread to any Pokemon in the trainer's party who hasn't been infected before. Pokérus does, however, "cure" after so many hours of play, and though the effect never goes away, it can't be spread anymore. A way to avoid this is to keep a Pokémon with the virus in your PC, where Pokérus will stay active indefinitely.
- Related, though not precisely this trope (since they aren't exactly diseases per se): Pokémon can only have one of six non-volatile status ailments: Burn, Freeze, Paralysis, Poison, bad Poison (most prominently from the move Toxic), and Sleep. A Pokémon may only have one of the six at a time, and with the exception of turning Poison into bad Poison, it's impossible for an enemy Pokémon to inflict a different one of the six on a target.note Thus there are strategies like having a Pokémon hold a Flame Orb (which gives it the Burn status at the start of battle) to prevent other, more limiting status ailments from being applied. Some effects, such as Poison Heal also make these status beneficial on top of granting immunities to the others.
- Appears several times in the Trauma Center series:
- In Under The Knife 2, all strains of Neo-GUILT grant the host benefits such as making them more intelligent, faster, or stopping the aging process. Well, until they get activated, that is...
- In New Blood, while Master Vakushti's Cardia infection altered his personality, it also kept his life-threatening spinal necrosis in check. In fact, he promptly dies soon after Cardia is defeated.
- In Trauma Team, Naomi Kimishima, already weary from the GUILT she contracted during the events of Second Opinion, gets infected with Rosalia. While the parasite formed by the two becomes a deadly threat, it also makes the latter, until then incurable, take a shape that allows CR-S01 to eliminate it with ease.
- The Rot in Armello, the King loses health each round from it, but any Hero infected with Rot doesn't really suffer any ill effects unless they fight someone else with Rot, in which case the one with a higher Rot score gains a bonus dice.
- The Elder Scrolls has vampirism, in which the longer it goes untreated, the victim gains more vampiric characteristics. But it also renders you immune to all diseases, which is a plus.
- Also in The Elder Scrolls, particularly Morrowind, the Corpus disease grants the victims immunity to all other diseases and even prevents them from aging. Too bad it also comes with a big serving of Body Horror and a bad case of crazy, and is completely incurable. Even The Nerevarine wasn't technically cured, he just had the bad parts of it removed.
- It's possible to get both Lycantrophy and Vampirism at the same time. While the backwards vampire head on the werewolf body is funny to see, it has many unintended consequences that overshadow the benefits of either on their own.
- Skyrim adds Lycanthropy to the mix. You can turn instantly into a giant furry killing machine, you are entirely immune to all diseases (even vampirism) and the only downside is losing the ability to gain sleep buffs. Oh, and Hircine gains your soul when you die so that your afterlife will be an eternal hunt for game as part of his pack, though some people considers that yet another form of Cursed with Awesome. This might not even hold true for the Dragonborn, whose soul has, shall we say, some interesting strings attached.
- In Dawn of War 2: Retribution, the healing of chaos units is done through the powers of Nurgle, by means of supernatural disease — Nurgle's Rot. The infected units get back to the fight as their senses get numbed to the pain and their wounds get sealed by cancerous growths.
- There are a couple of these in Space Station 13, such as Owns Syndrome, which heals, confers stun recovery, and gives free sunglasses.
- In Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader, the Disease Ward perk grants your character passive healing when sick.
- The protagonist of Deep Fear is immune to The Virus because he's got a cold.
- This is part of the quarians' backstory in Mass Effect. As their home planet was full of beneficial diseases, their immune system grew to be very welcoming to foreign organisms, adapting to the disease rather than fighting it off. After their geth rebelled and drove them from the homeworld, this became a fatal weakness, so they were forced to live in personal containment suits and keep their spaceships like a clean room.
- One increasingly common fan theory in Resident Evil is that constant light exposure to the series' various mutagenic viruses and substances has given most of the mainstay protagonists the superhuman strength, agility, and endurance they all seem to enjoy in the later games. The developers have neither strongly supported nor denied this.
- Directly confirmed to be the case for Sherry Birkin in Resident Evil 6, however; after being exposed to, and then cured of the G-virus, her DNA has been modified just enough to give her amazing tissue-regenerative capability without turning her into a monster.
- In Mega Man X, the Maverick Virus is this to Zero. In fact, according to Word of God, the virus had ironically fixed a programming bug in his "cognitive" system that made him very violent and disobedient, to the point where he performed a Heel-Face Turn soon after and joined the Maverick Hunters to face down other Mavericks. (The virus is supposed to make other robots violent by removing their inhibitions and their empathy).
- The SCP Foundation notes that people with diabetes are somehow immune to the Spontaneous Human Combustion Virus.
- The SCP foundation also has captured a virus that causes you to regurgitate various objects depending on the situation. It can be very useful if you, say, lock your keys in your car and need another. But if a situation calls for something like a glass lightbulb, or a knife...
- In Sorcery 101, lycantropy is considered an infectious disease, usually spread through biting. There's even a (fairly simple) cure. In a classic case of Cursed with Awesome, however, it comes with a laundry-list of advantages - most notably rapid regeneration. Brad, who's a werewolf, was once offered a cushy job in return for biting his new boss's daughter... because she was currently dying from inoperable cancer, and he'd rather see her alive, if occasionally furry, than dead.
- Futurama, "Parasites Lost": Eating a bad sandwich gives Fry worms that rebuild his body, making him stronger, smarter and irresistible to the woman of his dreams.
- The Simpsons: Mister Burns is apparently alive only because he's got so many diseases that they're all blocking each other out from outright killing him.
Mr. Burns: So... I'm indestructible.
Doctor: Oh goodness no, the slightest breeze could...
Mr. Burns: (walking off tenting his fingers) Indestructible.
- Live virus vaccines operate on this principle, infecting you with a weaker version of the disease in order to build up your immunity to the full version of it.
- Cowpox, a relatively harmless disease in humans, conveys immunity to the much more serious smallpox. This fact led to the discovery of the science of vaccination.
- You can still catch smallpox, even when vaccinated. The likelihood of it is significantly reduced, and your chances of surviving the disease are significantly increased. Also, the vaccination is only good for a decade at most. WHO doctors had to get the vaccination every five years at a minimum to maintain immunity until the disease was effectively eradicated.
- Malaria helps you deal with syphilis, (by causing such dangerously hot fevers that the syphilis bacteria can't survive) someone even got a Nobel Prize for finding out. Of course nobody cares now because of the discovery of penicillin.
- Syphilis in turn can, but usually doesn't, turn out positive as in end state it alters your brain chemistry. It usually slowly kills you, but in some people it made them more passionate, generally better-mooded and enjoy emotions more (including of sex - which is likely why it does it in the first place, because it encourages you to spread it more).
- Intestinal parasites such as tapeworms have been shown to reduce vulnerability of the host to airborne allergens such as pollen. They're also useful for treating Crohn's disease.
- At least one allergy sufferer intentionally infected himself with hookworms in order to prevent allergic reactions by messing with his immune system... On the downside, he now has hookworms.
- AIDS and other immunosuppressive diseases are very nasty, but they do have the minor upside of reducing allergic reactions due to the fact that your ruined immune system can no longer overreact to stimuli. There's even one girl who appears to have been cured of Leukemia by way of AIDS (it's an auto-immune disease, and it attacked the cancer cells).
- Some scientists are attempting to work out a way to cure cancer with AIDS on purpose, which in medical terms is somewhat like summoning Cthulhu to fight Godzilla.
- Actually, they used HIV as a vector for gene therapy, the genetic material that makes HIV deadly was replaced with genes that modified a few T-cells, that were removed from the patient and infected in a petri dish before putting them back back, attack cancer cells.
- There have also been a few cases where patients with AIDS and leukemia were seemingly cured of AIDS after receiving bone marrow transplants from people with a gene that makes them immune to HIV, but they later experienced a resurgence of the virus.
- There's a type of amoeba which, when it infests a human mouth, turns the teeth gray. This harmless cosmetic effect has its up side: the amoeba is a ravenous predator of bacteria which cause cavities.
- There is a kind of virus that infects tulips to give it color stripes.