• “Stupid Virus”: 3 Things You Should Know

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    A virus, previously thought to live only in algae in rivers and lakes, has been found in the throats of healthy people. The infected showed specific brain activities to be slower than of those without the virus.

    The study outlining the discovery was carried out by Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska (UNL) and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal in October.

    The scientists were busy with another study, when they found the DNA of the chlorovirus Acanthocystis turfacea chlorella virus 1 (ATCV-1) in the throats of humans. According to the study, such chloroviruses as ATCV-1 have not been previously shown to infect humans or to be part of the human virome.

    Recently, disease researchers yet again have discovered an emerging virus.

    Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska stumbled on to chlorovirus ATCV-1, a DNA virus which comes from algae, while doing an unrelated test on throat microbes. Forty-three percent of patients tested had it in their throats. Among other things it is found to lead to cognitive problems.

    I think the headlines should have read a lot differently. This discovery could have big implications for people for a few reasons. Yet, where is the media panic now? No…now it's been made cute and funny by dubbing it the “stupid virus.”

    1. This is not a “stupid virus,” per se – The “stupid virus” title is meant to be a humorous, eye catching marketing hook for bored journalists. It's actually an unwittingly cruel joke. In the original study, the researchers refer to cognitive decline and memory problems due to …

    Animals infected with the virus exhibited similar difficulties, scientists said. For example, mice who harbored the virus found it more difficult to navigate a maze and spent 30 percent less time – much less attention – examining a new object than healthy mice.

    “The similarity of our findings in mice and humans underscores the common mechanisms that many microbes use to affect cognitive function in both animals and people,” said co-investigator Mikhail Pletnikov, MD, PhD, director of the Behavioral Neurobiology and Neuroimmunology Laboratory at Johns Hopkins.

    Chloroviruses, which effect certain green microalgae, are common worldwide, said senior author of the study James Van Etten, William Allington Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology and a co-director of the Nebraska Center for Virology at UNL.

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