While going viral might be considered a good thing in today’s internet culture, when you start to look at the impact viruses have had on the health of mankind throughout the ages, another picture begins to emerge.
In Biowars, we see the effects that dangerous viruses like Viron have on creating the digital comic’s entire storyline. But in real life, viruses can be just as hazardous to an individual, and potentially even worse for everyone that person comes into contact with. That being said, let’s find out how these infinitesimal villains still make headlines around the world.
What is a Virus?
Wherever life exists, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to find viruses hanging around in the area as well. But when we say hanging around, that doesn’t mean viruses have the same characteristics as living organisms, because they certainly don’t. What it really comes down to is the virus doing what viruses do best—wait for a host to infect itself, and then prepare for a biological takeover.
Don’t be fooled by their microscopic exterior either, because even though these parasitic outlaws are strikingly smaller than bacteria, they pack a real punch scientifically speaking. So while they may be nothing more than a lifeless collection of independent particles waiting for a willing host, once they find one, their real abilities begin to spring into action.
Hosts for viruses can range from larger organisms, such as animals and plants, to microorganisms that include bacteria and archaea. Yet, how these organisms come to into contact with the virus to begin with can take several different paths, whether the virus is transmitted by insects, food and drink, open wounds, inhalation or exposure to any virus-infected area.
How Do Viruses Work?
As mentioned, viruses aren’t necessarily alive, even though they meet a few of the qualifications for life, including genetic material, reproductive capabilities and the skill of being able to evolve by way of natural selection. Nevertheless, because viruses lack cell structure and are unable to reproduce by themselves outside of a living host, they are what scientists consider “organisms at the edge of life”. Or in other words, they’re kind of like Pluto in the sense that they are really close to making the cut, but they’re missing out on a few small yet important features.
So when a virus clocks in for work (after entering a living organism, of course), they immediately begin their takeover by using the host’s cells as replicating machines that fill up with clone viruses until they eventually burst. Then, once the original infected cell bursts, other cells that surround these blood borne viruses begin to get infected as well.
Some researchers have referred to this kind of reproduction process as “cell surfing”, where viruses will jump from cell to cell looking for healthy hosts for further replicating, and skipping those that are already infected or not strong enough to be a good host. And the one thing viruses have going for them in terms of reproduction? Speed—and loads of it—because viruses are able to replicate themselves faster than our own cells, which is one of the main reasons why viruses can become so devastating to living things.
Two types of viruses that are well-known in today’s world are the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV virus and the Zika virus, which has been wreaking havoc across South America and is now being discovered in the United States and Europe. While these viruses wouldn’t be considered a pandemic by strict definition, they do show how easily a virus can be spread from one person to another, or in the case of the Zika virus, from mosquitoes to human beings.
How Do You Treat a Virus?
If getting rid of a virus was simple, it’s likely that mankind would have already figured out how to eliminate these types of threats completely over the past half-century. Unfortunately, because viruses evolve right alongside other types of microscopic troublemakers, they are hard to keep up with despite the medical and science community’s best efforts.
With antibiotics being ineffective in the fight against viruses, the only other alternative outside of teaching people ways to avoid getting infected is through antiviral medications, which is still a somewhat new way of treating conditions related to viral infections. And unlike antibiotics, which go out and destroy their intended targets, the large majority of antiviral drugs only prevent the virus from developing inside their host.
Another way of preventing viral infections is through vaccinations, which introduces a scientifically crafted form of a virus without its normal reproductive capabilities. In this way, the virus is introduced into a healthy person’s body where the virus is quickly eradicated and makes the person’s body immune to this particular strain. Using this method, such viral infections as polio, measles, mumps and rubella have pretty much been wiped away from the global map, and saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the process.
During your lifetime, there’s a good chance you’ll become infected with a virus—but don’t let that worry you, because they often resolve on their own without any specialized medical treatment beyond taking care of common symptoms such as pain, fever or coughing. All the same, it’s still important to do everything you can to lessen opportunities for catching a virus by washing your hands regularly, staying away from sick people and even taking on the viral threat yourself in one of three Biowars’ video games for Facebook, tablets and smartphones. We wish you luck in your battle for the BioCosmos!