What's in it for the Virus

When you’ve got the flu, your insides are turning inside out and you think you’re going to die, have you ever wondered what’s in it for the virus?

I mean, what possibly could a virus get out of all of this? I started thinking about this question and wondered if viruses were more like marauding teenagers. Maybe the point is to make their mark on the weak by destroying what they hold most dear. Maybe Viruses just get off on destroying.

Clearly, I’m no scientist. I just like to eat food and hate anything that keeps me from enjoying my meal. Bad service, bad food and being cash poor are the usual suspects. But now, VIRUSES are on my radar.

Why does a virus have to go in and mess with ME?

I’ve been doing a little research and from what I can tell, viruses know that they’re insipid little organisms and their time is short. So they, like angry little teenage marauders, like to cause as much havoc they can and then jump hosts and start all over again. They don’t like to stay in one place too long, else get caught. So they vini-vidi-vici a person and then, change their look a little, and move on. That way, they can keep on messing with people until the end of time.

Vicious little *(7*&(&8%@’s!

According to the J. Craig Venter Institute, the flu I’m talking about is a Type A influenza.

Researchers classify type A influenzas according to structural variations in two surface proteins: hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). Like changing coats, the influenza virus changes the shape of these HA or NA proteins when it accumulates minor mutations or reassorts more dramatically. The human immune system no longer recognizes the virus, and infection begins anew.

Steven Salzberg, senior author of the Nature paper, says the new work illustrates this chain of molecular events. “The study demonstrates that these influenza subpopulations, or variant strains, represent a pool of genetic resources that the influenza virus can draw upon,” says Salzberg, a researcher at TIGR and also director of the University of Maryland ‘s Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. “Pockets of distinct flu strains spread locally, with flu evolving in different directions. Then, when one strain mingles with another, a new, dominant strain can emerge.”

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and I want to know the motivation for things, but some how, knowing WHY a virus would need to do such vicious stuff makes me feel more understanding of it.

I know. I’m sick.


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

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