Viruses, Bacteria, and Diseases

In the world of biological viruses, bacteria, and diseases, any living entity can be infected at anytime- and anywhere.  But how, or where exactly, did these destructive organisms originate from?  

The microscopic organisms, or otherwise known as viruses, are perhaps the most dangerous of all bacteria and diseases.  In order for a virus to survive, it must first find and attach itself to a host cell.  The virus completes this task by bringing its DNA or RNA into contact with the host cell it needs to infect.  Once the virus approaches the host cell, it must attach to specific receptor sites, which are located on the surface of the host.  When rogue DNA or RNA enters the cell, new instructions are deployed, forcing the infected cell to produce multiple viruses, instead of proceeding with its normal functions.  Eventually, the host cell’s life span will decline; the virus will take control of the cell, causing a major suppression of the cell’s defences, signals, cellular translations, and transcriptions. It may be wondered: what type of structures do these viruses contain that allows them to attach to cells and bypass the body’s defences?  Since the main function of a virus is to infect cells and protect itself, the basic structure is fairly simple to understand.  Viruses are made up of a bacteriophage structure, which is composed of a head to protect and hold the viruses’ DNA or RNA strands, a neck and collar to attach the head to the body, long and short legs to assist the viruses in attaching to cells, and a base plate that allows the organisms to function.  This extremely simple structure plays a large role in helping the virus attach to a cell and injecting the genetic code into the cell.

Besides viruses, there are bacteria, and some of them are either harmless, helpful, or  dangerous.  Bacteria falls into the classification of prokaryotes, which means that they lack nuclei or chloroplasts.  The good bacteria is able to decompose plants, animal wastes, or matter.  This is beneficial because the bacteria returns the nutrients to the environment for other plants to use as a nutrient source.  It then passes the energy off to the animals that feed on the plants within the environment.  Beneficial bacteria also exists in the human body, assisting in the breakdown of nutrients that pass through the digestive tract, allowing the digestive system to absorb them.  In addition, bacteria in the digestive tract may act as an immune system and help destroy harmful bacteria that would to cause  infections or damage cells within the intestine’s wall.  Comparingly, harmful bacteria will cause damage to the body and create infections that would allow them to feed off of cells and meet their needs.  A very brief list of bacteria includes Clostridium Tetani (Tetanus), Haemophilus Influenzae (meningitis), Escherichia Coli (E.coli), Streptococcus Pyogenes (strep throat), and Staphylococcus Aureus (necrosis).

On Jan 15, every store in Chipotle, the Mexican Grill, closed down, due to reports of E.coli and noroviruses (stomach flu) within the foods and general areas of the restaurant.  Both the bacteria and noroviruses spread through a huge amount of pathways that include contaminated water, undercooked food, infected surfaces, and the surface of fruits or objects- like clothes.  What may have caused Chipotle’s viral outbreak may have been a simple slip, but that’s all it takes for a virus to succeed in spreading.  According to the CDC, Restaurants have a 22.1% chance of being involved with norovirus outbreaks.

With that said, the bacteria, Clostridium Tetani, falls into the class of a pathogenic bacteria, and takes on the appearance of a rod-like shape that is linked together.  Clostridium Tetani can be found as a spore, which lives in soil or within the intestinal tract of animals.  This bacteria will produce a biological toxin, Tetanospasmin, which is an extremely potent neurotoxin.  Tetanospasmin will target the nervous system and travel toward the (CNS) Central Nervous System that controls all of the activities of the body.  The Central Nervous System consists of the brain and the spinal cord, which sends important signals to the body.  The structure of a bacteria is similar to the shape of a pill, but some bacteria have a flagellum to allow the organism to move.  The pill shape of the bacteria provides protection, and it is made up of the capsule, cell membrane, and the cell wall.  These three layers also provide a place for the internal pieces of the bacteria to reside, in order to maintain basic life functions.  These internal pieces include Ribosomes, Chromosomes (DNA), and Cytoplasm.

Protists are single-celled organisms, which fall into the classification of Protozoa.  This class of Protozoa can easily be mistaken for resembling bacteria, but the difference is that these organisms contain a nucleus, which makes them eukaryotes, unlike bacteria, which are prokaryotes.  These protists can normally found living in a wide range of environments, such as forest floors, desert sands, and the bottom of the ocean.  Protozoa are generally harmless,  but it mainly depends on what type it is.  According to the Center Of Disease Control (CDC), harmful Protists are able to live within the human body, or more specifically, the digestive system- along with the ability to multiply itself.  The parasites also have the ability to spread through mosquitoes or sandflies, due to the fact that they live in the blood and tissue of their hosts.  A common disease caused by the parasitic classification of the Protozoans is known widely as malaria.  Malaria is spread mainly through mosquitoes or any type of blood sucking insect which, in 2013, 90% of the cases occurred in Africa.  When the malaria disease is injected into the human bloodstream by mosquitoes, the disease remains in the circulatory system until it eventually reaches and attacks liver cells.  Once this stage begins, the disease will then proceed to infect blood cells in order to continue to spread itself to mosquitoes,  which would eventually reach a human.  When the disease reaches another mosquito, the disease process begins over again, starting with the mosquito.  The symptoms of the malaria disease include  headaches in the Central Nervous System (brain), fever, fatigue in the muscular system, vomiting, and several other effects.

In addition, another class includes Archaea, which is believed to not harm humans, but they instead live in swamps and extreme climates in order to be able to feed off material within the environment.  Archaea is known to feed off multiple types of sources, depending on its metabolism type for the Phototrophs (as their main s
ource of energy, which comes from sunlight), and they are fueled by organic compounds that could be found in the environment.   The Phototrophs’ main function is to be able to absorb photons and carbon, in order to produce the products it needs to survive.  Additionally, two more types of Archaea are Lithotrophs and Organotrophs.  Lithotrophs go through a process that utilizes inorganic substrates (a type of fungi) to achieve biosynthesis.  Biosynthesis is the creation of complex molecules.  The other type of Archaea, Organotrophs, obtains hydrogen and electrons from the organic substrates within its nearby vicinity.  Organotrophs are otherwise known as heterotrophs, which are organisms like people and animals, who must process energy through the consumption of other creatures.   

The Catamount interviewed Professor Joseph Lin, 39, assistant professor, immunologist, and microbiologist at Sonoma State University, who remarked that viruses are “always trying to replicate, and
depending on the virus, they can take anywhere from a few days to several months, in order to succeed in infecting the body without the slightest giveaway to its host.”  Essentially, viruses do not stop for anything, or anyone, “whether or not the body actually detects it.”  This is why it is vital to know about the different types of infections and diseases that can occur.  Even after the host with the infection passes away, the “virus dies with it, unless the virus succeeds in transferring itself to a nearby host.”  While that may seem contradictory, it really isn’t.  A virus is born to infect and kill, and that is its only purpose.  On the other hand, bacteria is more common, and is generally found everywhere.  It does not matter whether bacteria is liked or not, because in humans, “the gut always has bacteria,” containing Escherichia coli, corynebacterineae, and staphylococcaceae, which all help the gut within its own little microbiota- or, to clarify, a major ensemble of microorganisms that reside in an environment.



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