IntroductionOH... so some of you have patience for an essay. Just kidding! Think of all those things the people who read the brief section missed out onů
Viruses have been with humans ever since we existed and are still with us today. Actually, viruses probably predated humans by a billion years or more. Most likely, they even existed before bacteria at a time when life was just starting! No wonder people have a hard time deciding whether they're alive or not.
These microorganisms are really simple things and sometimes, simple things can be powerful. Ironically, scientists think our immune system got started from a virus! The point here is, how much do we really know about viruses? They are so small that we've not been able to physically see them till the invention of the electron microscopes. You'll never see pictures of viruses' real color because they don't have color. The coloring you see is added later to enhance the pictures.
The fact is, we don't know much about these invisible creatures. We have very few drugs that are effective against them. There are no antibiotics for viruses like there are for bacteria. (It is ironic at times when doctors prescribe antibiotics for a viral infection. The antibiotics do absolutely nothing to fight the viruses!) All those flu and cold medicines you buy from your local drug store really just suppress your immune system. It does nothing to actually help you fight the infection.
So what can you do about these things? The answer is, don't be ignorant. Try to learn what we do know about viruses. Washington Irvine once said, "Knowledge is power." That is our goal. We want to make you knowledgeable about viruses. If someone happens to ask you if retroviruses were named because they were stuck in the 60's, we want you to go, "Oh no, no. Retroviruses first make a DNA copy from their RNA strand. Then they incorporate this DNA into their host's DNA to replicate itself and take control of the cell at its very 'brain.' That's why it's called retroviruses see? They work backwards. Retro? Get it?"
If you're a student, perhaps we'll inspire you to become a virologist, or at least give you some interest in the medical field. (Please let us know if we do. We would be very proud.) If you're from the general population of car salesmen, lawyers, and millionaire computer engineers, we hope to make you more understanding towards those who have diseases such as AIDS or infectious mononucleosis, which are caused by viruses.
However, we do want you to have fun in this whole discovery process. We want you to learn something new, learn some cool trivia that you might use on Jeopardy someday, play games, talk with others, and have a grand time along the way. There will be some mildly technical terms thrown in here and there, but nothing too big. This is not aimed at advanced medical students or professional researchers who are on the cutting edge, looking to see if their secrets are published on the web. (We aren't spies.)
Viruses are not exactly a happy topic, but they can be an interesting topic. They are sometimes hidden from our sight, our drugs, and our own body's defense. They are the hidden killers.