Viruses – friends and enemies at the same time

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — If your nose is flowing, the common cold virus is usually to blame. Fortunately, we have immunity that can cope with a cold, so that it passes quickly.

Other viruses are more difficult to defeat.

There are drugs against viruses, but they are not always effective. Therefore, if the virus has penetrated the cells of the body, the task of the immune system is to clean them.

Between bacteria and viruses – a big difference

Both bacteria and viruses can cause human disease. But at the same time they are very different.

Bacteria are living things made up of one simple cell. Cells are the “building blocks of life”; all living things, including our body, are composed of them.

Inside the bacterial cell there is everything that is required for life. The bacterium is able to eat, multiply and get rid of substances unnecessary to it. But the virus cannot. He survives only at the expense of others, simply forcing other people’s cells to work for themselves.

The virus enters the cell. And then begins to use it, producing many of its copies. Some viruses replicate themselves in such quantities that the cell eventually bursts and dies. Millions of new viruses are released from it, ready to attack the next cell.

Box with instructions inside

The cell is a very complex system. The virus, by contrast, is relatively primitive. In fact, he does not even fulfill all the requirements formulated by scientists to give a definition of a living creature.

Viruses do not absorb or secrete anything. They shift all these concerns to others.

Imagine a virus in the form of a small box. Inside are his genes – a kind of instruction that describes how the virus works.

The goal of the virus is to make the cell read this “instruction” and execute what is written in it.

Good viruses

We constantly carry a lot of viruses. They are present everywhere. But, fortunately, not all viruses are dangerous. Some of them even participate in very important processes in nature.

For example, a teaspoon of water contains several million viruses! In the sea, they kill bacteria, providing food for other organisms.

Most viruses do not harm people, because they attack only a certain type of cell.

Some viruses only attack pigs, others cause disease in plants. Still others prefer bacteria. Viruses exist on the earth practically for all living things.

Subject to change

The current coronavirus was originally an animal virus. Probably its carriers were bats.

How did it happen that he spread to people?

In the process of creating copies of the virus, errors occasionally occur. The copy is not entirely accurate. This is called a mutation.

With some “mistakes”, viruses survive perfectly. Other inaccuracies can destroy the virus, which can no longer penetrate the cells, which means it will die.

But occasionally viruses mutate so that, instead of infecting animals, they begin to attack human cells. If such a virus enters the human body, this may be the beginning of a new dangerous disease.

Need a key

A virus can enter a cell if its “spikes” or other surface elements coincide in shape with small formations on the outside of the cell.

For example, on the surface of the coronavirus there are spikes suitable for cells in the lungs of humans. These spikes play the role of keys. Some cells have “keyholes” that exactly match these keys. Having found the desired “keyhole”, the virus is fixed on the cell, and it takes it.

A virus can place its genetic material (that is, “instruction”) inside a cell in several ways. For example, an “instruction” is injected with a kind of needle. Or the virus enters the whole cell.

Coronavirus merges with the cell. So his “instruction” is inside.

Cell has become a virus factory

The cell reads the “instruction” that the virus passed to it. Now, inside the cell, a factory has emerged that produces new viruses with “instructions.” She also produces capsules with substances that the virus can use.

The cell produces everything the virus needs. She becomes a viral factory.

Ready-made viruses can then leave the cell and travel the body. Or the cell is so full of viruses that it bursts and dies. And then a lot of new viruses break free and attack new victims.

That’s why a person is sick

An anxiety rises in the body. Immunity releases its agents to arrest uninvited guests. At this moment, the person feels weak and sick.

Influenza viruses and coronavirus attack and damage lung cells.

In patients with coronavirus, the temperature rises and a cough begins. When we get the flu, we also suffer from a runny nose and cough. So the body reacts to the infection and defends itself from it.

Coronavirus spreads through the air in small droplets of liquid when coughing out of a person’s mouth. Anyone can breathe in these droplets. Or someone can touch the place where they settled, and then touch the mouth. In this way, the virus spreads.

Medications and vaccines can help.

Since the virus is not really a living creature, it’s very difficult to find an effective medicine against it that would not harm the cells.

Scientists are trying to create a medicine that would make sure that the “keys” of viruses no longer come to the surface of the cells — or one that interferes with the process of copying the virus. But there are few such drugs.

Vaccines protect against some viruses. When we get vaccinated, our immunity learns to recognize the virus. In this case, it attacks the virus so quickly that it simply does not have time to spawn many copies.

Now scientists are simultaneously developing both drugs and vaccines against coronavirus.

Some viruses cannot be eliminated.

In some cases, a person never succeeds in completely getting rid of the virus. It remains in the body for life. The genetic material (“instruction”) of such a virus is embedded in the genetic material of our own cells. At times, the virus simply calms down in anticipation of a new opportunity to break free.

This happens, for example, when the immune system is not able to track the virus. A herpes virus belongs to a similar type.

Looks like an alien

Viruses can be of very different shapes – polygonal, round or jagged. Bacteriophage viruses look most bizarre. They look like little spiders or aliens. Bacteriophages inject their genetic material into bacteria. They are not dangerous for people.

Much is known about the world of viruses, but scientists have yet to learn more.

Giant viruses

Viruses are the smallest and simplest microorganisms of all existing on Earth.

If you imagine that the cell is an aircraft carrier, then the bacterium in comparison with it will seem like an ordinary rowing boat. And the virus is a bottle cork swaying in the waves nearby.

But in fact, there are more viruses. They were discovered only a few years ago. The largest viruses are even larger than simple bacteria. They have much more genes than other viruses, and most of their genetic material has not been studied at all.

Scientists are wondering where the giant viruses came from. Perhaps, before becoming parasites, they belonged to a separate species of living organisms that lived on the planet a long time ago?

Fortunately, we should not be especially afraid of these giant viruses, as research has shown. It seems that they prefer to live off of amoeba – single-celled organisms.


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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.