Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Consider the viruses that cause the common cold....

Sometime Thursday or maybe Friday morning I encountered a virus particle looking for a home.  Once introduced into my respiratory tract, said virus attached itself to one of my cells, injected its RNA into my cell, and began to replicate.  Later my hijacked cell burst open, releasing more copies of the virus, which in turn found other cells to hijack and create more copies.  In the meantime I developed the classic symptoms of the common cold:  a sore throat, sneezing, a runny nose, fatigue, and a stuffy head.  The virus and I have been in constant battle, with it trying to replicate as much as possible before my body's defenses can overwhelm it.  Think of it as a biological 'denial of service attack.'  The virus isn't alive....it's unable to reproduce on its own without the use of a host cell, namely one of mine.  This means that the virus doesn't meet the general definition of a living organism, one that is able to replicate on its own.  I just wonder if those viral particles don't experience a frisson of pleasure each time they hijack a cell.

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