The K5 and K17 Vampire Virus theories have been largely discredited. Both are now beleived to have originated in film scripts. K17 is associated with the movie Reign in Darkness and K5 with the series Ultraviolet.
The possibility of a link between vampirism and a retrovirus is still up for debate but mainstream science, predictably, says little that is encouraging.
Verbatum from AltVampyres :
Following is a letter I received from Jon Martin, Ph.D., Associate Professor for Virology at Mercer University School of Medicine. Dr. Martin explains the current status of human retroviruses:
"...Personally, I think the retrovirus as an explanation is a
clever notion ... but nothing more than that. There are only three
retroviruses known to infect the human. One of them is HIV, which
causes AIDS. A second one causes an uncommon leukemia (human T-cell
leukemia/lymphoma virus; HTLV), and the third is not yet clearly
associated with human disease (but is related to HTLV)."
OTHER LESS WIDELY KNOWN PROPOSALS :
THE VAMPIRE HORMONE THEORY
A genetic complex that is usually dormant becomes activated by a
hormone brought in from an external source, i.e., a bite. The genetic
complex produces more of the hormone, thereby creating a chain reaction
in the victim's body. The hormone also transforms the victim's physical
form. The new form will be superficially human but with a pair of fangs
with poison sacs which can inject the hormone into another victim,
should the vampire so choose.
THE VAMPIRE POLYMER THEORY:
Vampires are the victims of a DNA-like polymer that was created by the
decomposition of a dead body many thousands of years ago. The polymer is
transmitted to others via a bite to a vein or artery and may have the
ability to evolve, like other life on Earth.
THE REPRODUCTION THEORY:
Similar to the Vampire Polymer Theory, but the material passed to the
victim is actual DNA, created by a completely different species which
uses humans as hosts for a method of asexual reproduction. The human
host eventually changes into a member of the vampire species.
THE VAMPIRE ALLERGEN THEORY:
The vampire injects an allergen of some sort. The allergic reaction
in the victim transforms him into another vampire.
THE HUMAN PREDATOR THEORY:
Humans are destructive to Nature and so Nature, striving for balance,
created a humanoid mutation in order to "cull the herd". Seems fitting
that it would be a vampire, since vampires would be able to walk with
humans without creating too much notice.
THE VAMPIRE HOMINID THEORY:
Vampires are an ancient offshoot from human evolution. They evolved
in a barren region, i.e., desert or tundra, so they have high tolerance
for the elements but no way to make hunting tools. Consequently, they
learned to steal from humans. The vampire's thirst for blood lies in
their need to take as much water as possible from the arid environment
in which they evolved.
THE ALIEN VAMPIRE THEORY:
In 1894, in "The Flowering of the Strange Orchid", H.G. Wells explored
the possibility of space aliens taking over a human body in order to
live off the life energy of others. Since then, vampires have become a
favorite alien in SciFi. Many theories have issued since, ranging
from the purely fantastic to plausable, but all were inspired by the
host of SciFi books and movies that portray vampires as space aliens.
THE VAMPIRE NANOBOT THEORY:
Nanobots, created by either a) renegade scientists or b) a race of
reptilian saurians, were introduced into a handful of human bodies in
order to repair cell damage. The Nanobots performed so well that they
rendered their hosts immortal. However, the Nanobots themselves are not
immortal and must self-replicate by utilizing the iron atoms from the
hemoglobin in the host's red blood cells. The result of this
nanoreplication process is the constant need for blood. Unable to keep
up with the demand, the host has no choice but to seek blood from
another. If the colony of Nanobots exceeds the host's ability to feed,
some Nanobots may migrate into another host, usually the next victim
of the primary host's bite.