A virus is often said to be a pseudo-living entity because it needs a host to survive. Viruses contain molecular pieces that make life possible. Viruses co-opt and steal the functioning machinery of true life. Moreover, viruses may have preceded us (humanity) as utilizing the first recognizable stuff of life (DNA/RNA). The viral origins of life appear reasonable because of the sheer volume of viral bio-material within the biosphere.
What is important to remember throughout the present pandemic— viruses are parasites. A familiar virus to most of us is the cold virus. Other viruses include: Ebola, the seasonal flu, the herpes-simplex virus, the AIDS virus, and many others— viruses are known to take lives. The virus on most of our minds, presently, is the novel Corona-19 virus. For most of us who follow the developments of the current viral pandemic closely, it appears odd. We are used to receiving a seasonal flu shot, and a doctor’s advice may sound rather generic, bed-rest and drink a high-volume of fluids. The current virus appears sophisticated—almost as if it were a manufactured agent targeting certain parts of its citizenry. However, the virus is one of many hidden aspects of life.
Anti-virals are often prescribed, but there is a piece of life’s puzzle staring square into our eyes. The novel Corona-19 virus seemingly jumped directly from animal to human—a rare occurrence. There is an important take-away: we are witnessing an extinction event.
Scientists, studying viruses, state viral bio-materials are the most abundant of life-materials on the Earth. From chromosome-sized pieces to atom-sized fragments that enabled the thriving of life are everywhere in the biosphere. Previous models for life’s origins put no intermediate life between the elements and more complex uni-cellular life. Putting viruses in the middle may answer some long-held questions—a so-called missing link.
Astrobiologists and molecular biologists, looking for the beginnings of life, seemingly struck a vein of gold in their hunt for life’s origins. This serendipitous moment will be remembered in the annals of science history.
For those who wish to understand life’s origins, the path to re-creating life got a little more streamlined. Viral bio-material is everywhere— and the mechanistic details for life’s origins appear more biological and less chemical. This occurrence maybe deadly to numerous, unnamed millions in the end, but the wheels of science continue. We must be mindful of those who struggled in death’s wake.
We are not cold and emotionless robot scientists —we are a part of humanity. We have compassion and love for all —we share our planet with many living creatures. The need to show our compassion is paramount—we bleed and can hurt just as much as anyone else.
Further Reading (in no prevalent order):
Moazzam M, Sajid MI, Shahid H, Butt J, Bashir I, Jamshaid M, Shirazi AN, Tiwari RK. Understanding COVID-19: From Origin to Potential Therapeutics. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Aug 14;17(16):5904. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17165904. PMID: 32823901; PMCID: PMC7460442.
Hu Y, Sun J, Dai Z, Deng H, Li X, Huang Q, Wu Y, Sun L, Xu Y. Prevalence and severity of corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19): A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Virol. 2020 Jun;127:104371. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2020.104371. Epub 2020 Apr 14. PMID: 32315817; PMCID: PMC7195434.
Paraskevis D, Kostaki EG, Magiorkinis G, Panayiotakopoulos G, Sourvinos G, Tsiodras S. Full-genome evolutionary analysis of the novel corona virus (2019-nCoV) rejects the hypothesis of emergence as a result of a recent recombination event. Infect Genet Evol. 2020 Apr;79:104212. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104212. Epub 2020 Jan 29. PMID: 32004758; PMCID: PMC7106301.
Zhang XY, Huang HJ, Zhuang DL, Nasser MI, Yang MH, Zhu P, Zhao MY. Biological, clinical and epidemiological features of COVID-19, SARS and MERS and AutoDock simulation of ACE2. Infect Dis Poverty. 2020 Jul 20;9(1):99. doi: 10.1186/s40249-020-00691-6. PMID: 32690096; PMCID: PMC7369569.
Szostak N, Synak J, Borowski M, Wasik S, Blazewicz J. Simulating the origins of life: The dual role of RNA replicases as an obstacle to evolution. PLoS One. 2017 Jul 10;12(7):e0180827. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180827. PMID: 28700697; PMCID: PMC5507279.
Sutherland JD. The Origin of Life–Out of the Blue. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2016 Jan 4;55(1):104-21. doi: 10.1002/anie.201506585. Epub 2015 Oct 29. PMID: 26510485.
Ritson D, Sutherland JD. Prebiotic synthesis of simple sugars by photoredox systems chemistry. Nat Chem. 2012 Nov;4(11):895-9. doi: 10.1038/nchem.1467. Epub 2012 Sep 30. PMID: 23089863; PMCID: PMC3589744.
Hein JE, Blackmond DG. On the origin of single chirality of amino acids and sugars in biogenesis. Acc Chem Res. 2012 Dec 18;45(12):2045-54. doi: 10.1021/ar200316n. Epub 2012 Feb 22. PMID: 22353168.