How Old Viruses Can Haunt Us

It may sound crazy, but human beings do have viruses inside them on a daily basis. Some of these viruses are very ancient, and their reactivation in the course of certain diseases may only worsen the condition of the patient. The main objective of this paper is to analyze the role of viruses in evolutionary history of humans and their diseases. Basing on this information, we will also discuss the possibility of battling and prevention of the viral infection.

According to the recent scientific findings, the remains of the old viruses may supposedly play a crucial role in several diseases, such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Researchers presume that humans have genes, in which the remains of the old viruses can be found. They also state that our ancestors were infected by these retroviruses from the rodents. The uniqueness of these old viruses lies in the fact that they are capable of copying their DNA into the DNA of humans, and because of this peculiarity they managed to survive through generations. With the flow of time, human genome changed sufficiently, and now the virus genes represent 8 percent of the whole human DNA. Is it a lot? Probably the answer to this question is positive, because this number is in fact considerably bigger than the number of genes responsible for the outer appearance of human beings. Consequently, there are more virus genes in the human organism than genes responsible for the eye or hair colors.

After discovering the presence of genes in human DNA, the researchers started wondering, whether they can possibly have a connection to any modern human diseases. Actually, the problems in this respect are caused not so much by the very retroviruses, but by the fact that they are switched on again and used not to the benefit of a human being. It must be acknowledged that not all the retroviruses cause the development of the diseases in the organism. Some of them were actually helpful because of their active role in placenta’s formation. There were also those that inserted parts of the old infections into the DNA of the humans and in this way helped their organisms to fight with similar viruses appearing all the time.

One of the biggest possible problems caused by a retrovirus may be observed in HIV patients. Retroviruses are found in their DNA in large quantities. It is assumed that HIV stimulates genes that were inactive for years and turns on the parts of human genome that were dormant, in particular, retroviruses genes. In case of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the situation is similar: the patients with cancer cells have old virus cells reactivated. The stimulated retrovirus cell entails aggressive development of cancer and, in this way, destroys the possibility of survival. After these medical discoveries were done, the researchers reached a startling conclusion – reactivated viruses aggravate the condition of people diagnosed with cancer and assist its rapid development. Consequently, if it would be possible to turn theses retroviruses off again, the cancer patients may witness improvement in their condition. Another researchers’ discovery proves that Epstein-Barr virus and two herpes viruses can make the old virus genes active. This, in turn, may worsen the condition of the patients with multiple sclerosis and chronic fatigue syndrome. If this discovery proves to be true, it will definitely become possible to develop treatment that will be directed towards inactivating the retrovirus genes. Such revelation about retroviruses may become one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of medicine.

Although antibiotics discovered long ago successfully battle bacterial infections, they remain useless in treating viral infections, such as influenza, the common cold, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever, and some other hemorrhagic fever types. The discovery of retrovirus in human genome was more than helpful in this respect. The researchers managed to develop a drug on its basis that detects virus cells and cures the infection. It works by pointing the RNA produced only by the cells infected by the viruses. So, how does it work exactly? Drug’s main idea is to initiate programmed cell suicide, when this cell is on its way to become cancerous. Although viruses are successful in developing resistance against any treatment, in this case, it is very unlikely that they will manage to do it.

To conclude with, the ancient viruses present in human genome can be very dangerous and cause a lot of harm to the patients that are already suffering from other diseases like HIV or multiple sclerosis. However, the scientists are on their way to discover successful treatment from the viral infections.

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