Falling out of the sky and causing Alzheimer's: what else viruses are capable of

Viruses were first discovered in 1892, but even 109 years later, scientists continue to make new discoveries about them. Their

are found everywhere on Earth and, according to scientists, their10 times more than bacteria. Antibiotics do not work on them; only a few antiviral and antiretroviral drugs and vaccines can eliminate or reduce the severity of viral diseases such as AIDS, COVID-19, measles and smallpox.

What else do we know about viruses?

An ancient virus lived in the human brain

Neurons of the brain of animals, including humans,contain genetic remnants of an ancient viral infection. Scientists believe it may be the key to thought processes. Biologists talked about this in two articles (one, two) for the journal Cell. About 350-400 million years ago, a retrovirus entered the mammalian organism, contact with which led to the formation of a gene called Arc.


It turned out that he is a geneticcode left over from an ancient virus. It is necessary for synaptic plasticity - the ability of nerve cells to form and consolidate new nerve connections. A virus-like gene helps neurons to carry out higher mental functions.

Viruses literally fall from the sky

In one study, scientists found out whyviruses that are genetically similar to each other can be found on different parts of the earth. The thing is that they are able to move along with the air currents. Viruses can catch on particles of soil or water and rise high into the atmosphere (free troposphere) and, ultimately, fall hundreds and thousands of kilometers from the original point.


The virus manipulates genes to defend itself

Almost everyone gets infected several times in their liferespiratory syncytial virus. In most cases, the body can easily overcome it and everything is done with a mild cold. But some people - most often young children who have had their first infection or older people who have weakened immune systems - develop pneumonia or bronchiolitis. These are serious lung infections that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death.

Scientists have recently figured out how the virus underminesthe body's defenses. It turned out that the virus produces non-structural protein 1, or NS1, which penetrates into the nucleus and alters the activity of immune genes, sabotaging the immune response. The results of the study provide more information on how the virus is causing serious illness in vulnerable populations.

Unusual transport

Rift Valley Fever is causing devastatingfrom an economic point of view, outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever in livestock. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and usually infects people who work with dead or dying animals. As a result, hundreds of people fall ill and die every year.

There is no specific treatment for fever. And, although it is only common in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, mosquitoes carrying the virus can be found all over the world.


Recently, a group of American scientists discoveredthat the virus responsible for the fever enters the cells using a special protein. It is usually involved in the absorption of low density lipoproteins (LDL, carriers of "bad cholesterol") from the blood. The discovery could lead to treatments that prevent or lessen Rift Valley Fever by interfering with the virus's ability to enter cells.

Alzheimer's disease and viruses

The theory that viruses may play a role inAlzheimer's disease received more support after the publication of a study by American scientists in the journal Neuron. Experts studied about a thousand brains of deceased people from several organ banks. Among them were people with and without Alzheimer's disease. During the study, scientists analyzed genetic sequences taken from brain tissue.

It turned out that the brain of deceased people with a diseaseAlzheimer's contained higher levels of viruses than the brains of patients without it. In particular, the brain that suffered from dementia had twice as many of the two common strains of herpes viruses as the normal one.


The researchers noted that it is not entirely clear whichviruses can play a role in the development of the disease. They are capable of both causing the disease and simply accelerating its progression. However, it is possible that herpes viruses do not play a role at all in the disease and are found in the brain that has suffered from dementia for some other reason.

Much is unknown

Viruses are believed to be "aboriginal"our planet. According to one version, they came to Earth at the time of its creation. All this time, namely 4.54 billion years, they developed. Much more about viruses is unknown to man and the main discoveries are yet to come.

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Iwanowski D.Über die Mosaikkrankheit der Tabakspflanze (German) // Bulletin scientifique publié par l'Académie impériale des sciences de Saint-Pétersbourg. Nouvelle Serie III. - 1892. - Bd. 35. - S. 67-70. Ivanovsky DI About two diseases of tobacco. Tobacco ash, mosaic disease // Agriculture and forestry. - 1892. - T. CCIXX, vol. 2. - S. 104-121.

Human respiratory syncytial virus - speciesviruses that cause respiratory tract infections. It is the leading cause of lower respiratory tract infections in newborns and children. Treatment is limited to supportive care and an oxygen mask may be used.