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Talking Viruses?

We “transmit” information in a variety of ways.  Generally we communicate acoustically; meaning we “talk”. But did you know that communication is also by olfactory (smell), signaling (dog wagging tail), touching, and chemical (ants secreting acid). In the transmission of information you have a sender (or source), a message, a channel, and a receiver (destination).

So how do viruses talk?  Well, the same as humans. Instead of acoustically communicating, they talk via chemicals.  We’ve know for awhile that bacteria do communicate but have never proven that viruses also talk to each other.  How did they find this out?

Some Israeli scientists introduced a virus into a bacterial colony looking for the bacteria to start “chattering” to each other about the newly introduced virus.  And why wouldn’t they?  Because viruses attack bacteria and inject their DNA into them, killing them in the process.  Basically the bacteria talk to each other chemically and decide how to fight back. In this initial case the viruses killed all the bacteria.  The scientists filtered the mixture to isolate the proteins, then added the proteins to a new flask of bacteria, then added new viruses.  What happened surprised them!

Instead of killing all the bacteria as before, the viruses simply injected “part” if its DNA into the bacteria.  This was a mystery!  Why had the viruses changed their way of attacking.  Fast forward to 2 years later.  The scientists isolated the protein that caused the mystery. They called the protein arbitrium, which is Latin for “decision.”

The scientists believe that when arbitrium builds up to a certain level, viruses switch from killing their host to simply injecting part of their DNA until the hosts can “recuperate”.  WOW!  So what does that mean?

We have a new research pathway to help discover new ways of defeating the viruses that attack and kill us. But it leads me to another question of how this all works within human beings and a whole host of other questions that send me down the rabbit hole 🙂

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