Articles, Blog

Virus 101: Introduction to Viruses by Dr. Mark Young

February 2, 2020


Why do I care so much about viruses? One is, you just have to have an appreciation for how many there are.
So on this planet at any one time it is estimated, and these are just estimations and they’re probably conservative
there’s ten to the thirty-one virus particles present. So that’s ten to
the exponent of thirty-one. What does that number mean? right unless you’re a physicist or a geologist, you really don’t have a clue what that number means.
Let me put it into perspective So viruses are really small. And you can fit thousands up to billions of viruses inside a single cell Well, if you took that 10 to the 31 particles and laid them end to end, it would take you over
two hundred million light years to go from one end to the other That’s phenomenal. That’s going outside the Milky Way
and I think about three quarters of the way back in. So just in their sheer number they’re totally incredible. Because of that number, and because all viruses require a host
to replicate in, it’s estimated that there’s about 10 to the
24th infections per second What’s that number mean? Well, how long do you think the Earth has been around? The Earth has only been around 10 to
the 17th seconds So we are talking about an enormous number
of infections per second occurring on this planet. Well, again, put that into something maybe that we can understand So in the oceans, where the microbial population
makes up about 90 percent of the living biomass It’s estimated that about 20 percent
of that biomass –of these cells–is infected by viruses and killed by viruses every single
day. So that means in five days on average the vast majority of the life
in the oceans is turned over. It’s a whole new ball game every five days. Just as a consequence of viral infections and very few people appreciate what that really means and these are actually pretty recent findings, so it’ll spread throughout the
scientific and general community, but these are remarkable numbers. So, to keep discussing this, we and others believe that viruses are major drivers of evolution in the past and in today, so, it’s hard to imagine that any life you could think of, even us could be what we are without viruses. Everyone thinks of viruses as bad. They cause disease. But in reality, viruses are essential for us to exist as humans. How can I say such things like that? It really comes from multiple sources. Probably the most obvious one, is over the last ten years we’ve really advanced our technology in how to sequence the genomes of organisms. So now we have the sequence of the human genome
and about 800 other organisms we know about. And every single one of those organisms when you look at them, a significant number
of the genes that make us up are from viruses. It can be up to 50 percent of all the genes in an organism are from viruses. Some of us speculate that everything was either invented by viruses or at
some point had association with viruses. The estimations now when we look at where are all the genes
in the biological world the vast majority of new genes
we believe actually are invented by viruses and are introduced into living cells to help them evolve and are the drivers of evolution. So they are the creators you might say of biodiversity on this planet

3 Comments

  • Reply Lijrobert February 1, 2012 at 1:14 am

    like this video 😀

  • Reply PRIVATE EYE April 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Thank you.  This video is very outstanding.  I had a thought on the Shingles.  A virus is a virus no matter what.  However, if a virus can enter into the human body, how can it be killed, "It cant" If it sustains life to effect the human body.   My thing is with any virus is how do we fool the virus with animal venom.  {This is the new medicine soon to hit the human medication stream}. I am more curious about a scientific study on the vaccine of Shingles.   In the article, they said, we tricked the virus by matching its behavior and made a copy virus to destroy the virus effects to stop it's symptomatic repetitions in the human body.  Do you think that's possible?

  • Reply Michael Harris March 12, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Viruses are the good guys. So the place is teeming with life waiting to start if there is a mass wipe out of all the animals. It won't take millions of years to re-establish as Darwin's theory would suggest. It might be the viruses create species not Darwin's evolution. Isn't it time it was admitted the theory is past it's sell by date. DNA can survive a snowball earth and restart life. So Darwin's theory is dead. We all know everything evolves, that's not a theory.

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