That Coughing, Sneezing, Runny Nose Virus

by Curt Kovener

There’s been a lot of suffering with colds in Jackson and Scott Counties this winter. (And I suppose no one enjoys a cold so suffering is the appropriate word.) While we have often been told “You’ll catch a cold” actually a cold virus catches us.
So what about viruses, will they take over the planet?
•Virus comes from the Latin word for “poison” or “slimy liquid,” an apt descriptor for the bug that causes flu and the common cold.
•Viruses are not alive: They do not have cells, they cannot turn food into energy, and without a host they are just inert packets of chemicals. But viruses are not exactly dead, either: They have genes, they reproduce, and they evolve through natural selection.
•In 1992 scientists tracking a pneumonia outbreak in England found a massive new kind of virus lurking within an amoeba (a single cell living creature) inside a cooling tower. It was so large and complex; they initially assumed it was a bacterium.
That Goliath virus is now called Mimivirus, so named because French biologist Didier Raoult, who helped sequence its genome, fondly recalled his father telling the story of “Mimi the Amoeba.”
Mamavirus, closely related to Mimivirus but even bigger, also turned up inside an amoeba in a Paris cooling tower. (Maybe somebody should clean those towers.)
•Amoebas turn out to be great places to seek out new viruses. They like to swallow big things and so serve as a kind of mixing bowl where viruses and bacteria can swap genes.
•Viruses are already known to infect animals, plants, fungi, protozoa, bacteria and other viruses.
•In fact, scratch the whole concept of “us versus them.” Half of all human DNA originally came from viruses, which infected and embedded themselves in our ancestors’ egg and sperm cells.
•Most of those embedded viruses are now extinct, but in 2005 French researchers (remember those cooling towers?) applied for permission to resurrect one of them. Some scientists objected, saying the resurrected virus could go on a rampage; the research ministry approved the project. And the result? Apocalypse Not: The virus, dubbed Phoenix, was a dud.
•But not all viruses are a bad thing. Some viral proteins do good. They may have kept your mother’s immune system from attacking you in utero, for instance.
•Scientists have determined that a virus called HTLV, which has coevolved with humans for thousands of years, is being used to uncover prehistoric migration patterns. Its modern distribution suggests that Japanese sailors were the first people to reach the Americas, millennia before Siberians wandered across the Bering Strait.
Despite all of the scientific study, modern medicine still has not come up with a cure for the common cold. I have found that I can take zinc and echinacea as a homeopathic way to ease cold symptoms. Others take over the counter remedies which I find getting over the cure is worse than the cold symptoms.
You can take something and be over it is about a week or you can do nothing and get over a cold in about seven days.