Viruses are fascinating. Not quite alive, not quite dead, they are the ultimate predators.
One of the most successful and perfect viruses is the norovirus. What’s so special about it? Carl Zimmer over at National Geographic’s Phenomena section has the low down, and it’s an interesting read.
A small excerpt: “Each norovirus carries just nine protein-coding genes (you have about 20,000). Even with that skimpy genetic toolkit, noroviruses can break the locks on our cells, slip in, and hack our own DNA to make new noroviruses. The details of this invasion are sketchy, alas, because scientists haven’t figured out a good way to rear noroviruses in human cells in their labs. It’s not even clear exactly which type of cell they invade once they reach the gut. Regardless of the type, they clearly know how to exploit their hosts. Noroviruses come roaring out of the infected cells in vast numbers. And then they come roaring out of the body. Within a day of infection, noroviruses have rewired our digestive system so that stuff comes flying out from both ends.” (Phenomena: The Loom)
How impressive is that? I managed to escape being one of the 1.1 million people who got infected with the norovirus over the Christmas period (The Guardian), although I know a number of people who have been less fortunate. It’s definitely not pretty! The result, that is. The virus itself is beautiful (image above from the German Cancer Research Center). Then again, I find all viruses fascinating, so I may be a little biased towards them!
Did you get infected? If so, you’ve got about 3 months grace period before you’re fair game again. Lucky you! Onwards!