Are viruses alive? Viruses depend on the living cells of other living organisms to reproduce and survive, since they can only capture or store energy for themselves. That is why they’re often thought of as non-life, since they cannot survive without a living host organism. But viruses are much more than just a waste of time on the cellular level. They actually have a tremendous impact on our health and the functioning of all living things. And we do not just mean in the form of spreading viruses from one person to another but also in the form of changing and eliminating existing viruses.
The most famous of all viruses is AIDS, but even without the media’s obsession with this disease, the simple truth is that our bodies’ immune systems are greatly affected by the various forms of HIV/AIDS viruses. There have been extensive tests performed on human cells to determine whether or not these viruses can infect these living cells. Results showed that even in people who did not have the HIV virus, some of the cells in their body did carry the HIV virus, and in the absence of the HIV virus, the cells stayed healthy.
These studies revealed that when the HIV virus infected a cell, it replicated its protein molecule into an actual virus. When this happened, it was then free to infect other cells, causing them to multiply and ultimately change their DNA into the HIV virus. However, it became clear that there were distinct differences between the HIV viruses that infected different cells. It became possible to distinguish the virus by examining the genetic code that encodes each particular virus.
There is one particular virus that is believed to be the most efficient at hiding from our naked eye and causing a deadly disease called HIV. Known as the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), this malicious intruder has infected millions of human cells worldwide. Some of these cells carry the HIV virus, yet others are completely uninfected. Either way, the virus particles can hide inside the infected cells until the unsuspecting victim becomes infected. From there, the virus can spread rapidly to other locations.
While researchers are still uncertain how the viruses that cause AIDS, hepatitis, and other diseases are able to reproduce within the host organisms, they believe that it is due to their genetic similarities. This means that any virus can change its genetic code and become a retrovirus. Once this happens, the virus has the ability to infect any other host organism. Since every person carries the same genetic code, any virus that changes only affects that person, can quickly spread throughout the world. Because it is possible to transfer retroviruses to another individual, many doctors believe that the best way to avoid getting AIDS is to get the virus eliminated from the body with the help of aggressive treatments.
The scientists have found that a protein, termed “HIV protein antigens” acts as the primary agent that encourages the rapid replication of the HIV virus. The study showed that HIV antigens responsible for stimulating the virus replication in the healthy cells contained an amino acid called “protease.” This particular amino acid was much more abundant in people who had been infected with the virus, which led the scientists to conclude that it is possible to keep HIV virus particles from infecting healthy cells. They suggest that the next step be taken to develop a drug that targets this specific amino acid.
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