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Oh no! Do you have the flu – again? It seems to keep returning, no matter what medication we take. Why is that? As a child, I was given a number of vaccinations – bless them – and yet, I repeatedly caught the flu, year-in and year-out. This leads us to an obvious question… What makes viruses such tough fighters?
Viruses – The Undead Microorganisms
Perhaps you didn’t know this, but viruses remain dormant when they aren’t living inside a host organism, i.e., a living being.
As soon as they enter a living host, however, they come alive! Moving from a completely dormant state to full activity takes a frighteningly short amount of time, and they soon hijack our machinery and use it as fuel to sustain themselves. They begin to duplicate and get to work on leaving us dry and dead. Ouch… I feel so used!
Remember those vaccinations I mentioned earlier? They are a key line of defense to help our bodies ward off viral invasions. These vaccinations act as reminders for our bodies in case we become exposed to the same virus again. For example, one injection for measles will provide a lifetime of resistance if our body ever encounters the measles virus again!
However, if these vaccinations are so effective, why don’t they work for all viruses?
Take a look at the protein surface in the picture above. These protein surfaces continuously change when a virus mutates, and when this happens, our bodies don’t remember if they’ve fought with this particular virus or not. Therefore, the vaccine that worked so well last year won’t work the next time around.
Is There a Way to Kill Viruses?
Viruses are very tricky things to handle. Take, for example, the case of HIV. Once the HIV virus starts to replicate, it’s difficult to distinguish a healthy cell from an infected one. How do you expect to kill something like that?
Scientists have been searching for an answer to the very same questions for many years. There have been numerous experiments and theories concerning the best way to handle viral infections.
One such experiment involves the mechanical shaking of viruses using resonating frequencies.The capsid (or envelope) acts as a shell for the virus. If the shell gets damaged, the virus becomes inactivated. Basically, it’s like pushing a child on a swing, but it’s rather difficult to estimate how much push is required to get the virus shaking.
There have also been numerous experiments on irradiating the virus with UV light. This is harmful, as it mutates the proteins and causes damage to the healthy cells, as compared to blasting viruses with low-dose laser techniques, which do not cause mutations. Researchers are hoping to use microwaves to destroy viruses, but until now, this process has proven ineffective.
Nanotechnology is all the rage this century! Would you believe me if I told you that researchers at Georgia State University have created a vaccine that includes nano particles to treat respiratory syncytial virus? I understand that’s pretty exciting to you, so take all the time you need to process and quietly celebrate this awesome discovery….
In 2004, a team of American and Venezuelan scientists announced the development of rhodium-based compounds that can destroy tumors and deactivate viruses. The technique involves the use of light at a particular frequency that could help activate the compounds. This was praised as a possible alternative to chemotherapy, as it doesn’t harm healthy cells.
Drugs have also been used as a form of protection against these viral assaults. The problem is that drugs are less effective towards viruses than they are towards bacteria. Have you ever wondered why you don’t take antibiotics when you have a cold? Quite simply, because they don’t work on viruses.
Fortunately, some anti-viral drugs have been developed that disrupt the life cycle of a virus: some stop the virus’ genetic material from being duplicated within the host cells, while others simply prevent the virus from attaching itself to the host.
Do we know if viruses can be killed? Not completely, but we’re on our way towards some real answers that could help humanity at large.
So, keep calm and fight on. And in the meantime, watch Resident Evil (it hasn’t been proven that you can turn into a zombie from a virus, but they show some pretty strange, zombie-like characteristics, so who knows!?)
- Introduction To Viruses – Wikipedia
- British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC.com)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information