Most people think of viruses as invisible, insidious threats that can spread rapidly and cause serious illness. But there are many things about viruses that you may not know.
by David Stone
Viruses are tiny organisms, typically made from one strand of DNA or RNA. They aren’t capable of reproducing on their own but they hijack healthy cells in order to replicate.
Though most people associate viruses with illnesses like the flu or the common cold, they can actually cause a wide variety of illnesses. Some other examples include HIV/AIDS, SARS-CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19), rotavirus, West Nile Virus, hepatitis A and B, herpes simplex virus type 1, HPV, rabies and mumps.
About Helpful Viruses
A surprising fact is that not all viruses are harmful — some actually provide benefits to humans. For example, some types of bacteriophages (bacteria-specific viruses) can be used to treat bacterial infections in lieu of antibiotics.
Scientists have also found evidence that some may play a role in helping plants survive stressful conditions.
Another fascinating thing about these organisms is that they’re incredibly resilient when it comes to extreme temperatures and acidic or alkaline conditions — much more so than bacteria and other microorganisms.
While most bacteria die if heated to over 100 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes or at temperatures below -70 degrees Celsius for four hours—viruses can withstand much harsher conditions without being destroyed.
Finally, scientists are now studying how recent advances in technology might be used to fight against the mutations which make these mysterious creatures hardier over time.
In particular, CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tools could potentially be used to target the parts of the tiny microorganism responsible for mutation while leaving the healthy parts intact — thus allowing us to create effective vaccines quickly in case of future pandemics.
Overall, it’s important to remember that there is much more complexity behind our understanding of viruses than what we’re often taught at school or see in the news – but with further research and technological innovation, we may soon come up with new solutions for combating these tiny yet powerful pathogens.