Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Flu Virus is a Terrorist?

In a recent PBS documentary about the 1918 flu pandemic, a virology expert described the flu virus as "a little terrorist."

I must say the description is spot-on.

Think about it: a flu virus works by invading cells that line the airways and literally hijacks cellular machinery to make copies of itself. When it expends the cell's resources, it effectively kills the host cell and the newly created viruses that are free to infect neighboring cells where the process continues.

It seems the flu and extreme religious ideology have something in common. Well, at least metaphorically.

Happy New Year!

Dr. Dave

Posted via email from Dr. Dave Science

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kills flu virus...nope

My coworker has a box of Lysol disinfecting wipes on her desk and I felt compelled to take a picture of the label. Why? The bright yellow label at the top says "Kills Flu Virus."

So what?

For starters, the flu virus--any virus, for that matter--is not alive. Viruses lack the basic machinery that makes life possible from bacteria to humans and everything in between. In general, viruses cannot replicate DNA, assemble proteins and sugars, or generate energy. Instead a virus must rely on a target cell to do all the work. (We can delve further, but I'll stop here.)

So, with the above in mind, how can you kill something that's not alive? The word "destroy" seems more appropriate, don't you think?

Semantics aside, very few people would actually notice (or care) that a virus can not be be killed. Focus on the big-picture: a simple non-living virus can cause tremendous harm to humans. Now that is something to notice.

-Dr. Dave

Posted via email from Dr. Dave Science