I was on my way home from work when it hit: sharp pain in my stomach, nausea, hot and cold chills. Suddenly, everyone looked like walking toilets and oversized bottles of Pepto Bismol. It was official. I had a bad case of the stomach virus.
As I sat in bed eating Saltine crackers and apple sauce, I became angry at the little organisms infecting my gut. This “bug” was going around harming innocent people, and now I was the latest victim. Who do these viruses think they are?
I instantly became determined to fight them off! As every commander knows (hey, Half-life counts as some sort of military experience), in order to effectively succeed in direct combat, one must understand the enemy. So, I asked WA, “What the heck is a virus?”
Answer: Viruses are non-cellular infectious entities whose genomes are a single nucleic acid, either DNA or RNA, which uses a cell’s biosynthetic machinery to direct the synthesis of specialized particles called virions.
Virions contain the viral genomes that are efficiently transferred into other cells. Many scientists argue about whether a virus is living or not; that’s why there is no virus kingdom. There are several different theories as to how they evolved – they could have been bits of cells, or random self-reproducing molecules, or particular cells that lost all of their useful parts except for DNA/RNA.
Hmm, so basically a virus is a semi-living, sort-of-organism with a strategic plan of “spread and conquer.” Behold, I lay before you the virus’s 5-step plan of premeditated destruction in layman’s terms:
- Infiltrate foreign territory.
- Seek out a healthy and happy host.
- Penetrate the cell, suck out the nutrition, energy and life-force of the host in order to multiply.
- Rip open the cell and infect surrounding cells.
- If mission proves successful, attack and destroy new cells by repeating steps 1-4.
There is one very big problem here: if the virus actually succeeds in taking over every cell in the body, it will inevitably kill its host – the very same host that is allowing it to thrive in the first place! In essence, a virus’s ultimate goal is destruction: destroy good and let evil reign. This is starting to sound familiar…
My friends, viruses are the micro-terrorists of the cellular free world! They are biological extremists; just as human extremists try to force their beliefs on others, viruses try to change the genetic coding of a host cell to mimic their own DNA. The threatened cell can either give in and become identical to its viral attacker, or it can stand up to the virus with the aid of its patriotic leukocytes. If the cell does decide that life is worth living, there are two potential tactics to defeat the threat.
- Stop the virus in its tracks: Viruses can’t actually multiply until they are inside an animal’s body, so if you stop a virus from entering the body via good hygiene, supporting your immune system and promoting overall health, you won’t have to deal with the buggers to begin with. In the real world, this means taking the offensive: no negotiations with terrorists, no foreign treaties with nations that promote terrorists, and supporting a beefed up army.
- Penetrate from within: Take an antiviral vaccine so your body can identify the virus. This means you are willingly exposing yourself to the enemy. You might feel some symptoms of illness, but your lymphocytes are hard at work making B-cell soldiers. In global terms, this means creating good PR in an unwilling environment: talking to the religious extremists, meeting the leaders of countries that harbor terrorists, and becoming closer in the hopes of quickly crushing the enemy when they make a viral move.
So which approach works best, singing Kumbaya to the Taliban or telling them to “talk to the hand”?
I tried both methods in an attempt to kill my stomach virus. I think it was more insulted by my singing then by my disdain. Based on my experience, if we cure terrorism the same way we cure viral infections, all we have to do is feed terrorists some Saltines.