The Origins of Viruses

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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA– Viruses have been on this planet for quite some time. As long as life has existed, viruses have been there. Curiously they are not technically dead or alive, but bits of genetic material. They latch themselves onto the living (bacteria, animals, plants, fungi) in order to exist and multiply.

“When they are in their normal form and they are in outside of cells, they are just inert.  That is how they are transmitted, they can’t last very long outside of cells or if we are talking about the coronavirus, humans,” says University of New Orleans Biology Department Chair, Dr. Wendy Schluchter.

The evidence of virus’ existence is linked to our very own DNA and you can find traces of past viruses within the human genome. “If you look at the human genome, we have viruses that are stuck in the sequences and are dead and unable to get out of our genome.  Through DNA sequencing we can tell that these things have been around for a very long time,” says Dr. Schulchter.

The coronavirus is a novel virus, a virus that is completely new and may have originated from other species, with the believed culprit being bats. “If this virus came from a bat, the bat probably had no problems with this but when it jumped to another animal and then to humans there is just no protection at all.” It is believed that the coronavirus didn’t go from bat to human but instead had a middle host. One of he main animals being studied as the possible middle ground animal carrying the coronavirus is the pangolin, one of the cutest and peculiar creatures in the animal kingdom and also, the most poached animal in the world.

However, despite the origins of viruses, the best defense against the coronavirus remains washing your hands. The detergent and soap disrupts the fragile outer coating of the viral structure. At least 20 seconds gives enough time to fully destroy something that is billions of years in the making and potentially harmful.