Viral Evolution

With ‘COVID-19‘ being the focus of the world, many people are claiming that it’s a hoax, or it’s been manufactured to disrupt the world economy, but in a crisis, conspiracy theories are rife. One thing is certain, and that is the death toll is rising rapidly, and the future of humanity rests on science finding an antiviral solution, preparing for a another outbreak, and people being more conscientious about personal hygiene and self-isolating if they become sick.

The trouble scientists are facing attempting to combat COVID-19 is that it’s a virus, and treating them can be extremely difficult as they are prone to mutate and benefit from natural selection, a key component of evolution. Researchers in China have discovered that there are more than one version of COVID-19, and the more aggressive strain that has spread around the world that mutated away from a far less aggressive strain.

What’s interesting about viral evolution is a virus isn’t technically living, and with it needing to hijack a host’s molecular makeup to reproduce, but natural selection still plays a huge part in its survival. Without life, viruses can’t exist, but in 2013 two virologists from Marseille discovered a virus that had been frozen for thousands of years in Siberia.

“Pithovirus’s relatively large number of genes also differentiated it from other viruses, which are often genetically simple—the smallest have a mere four genes. Pithovirus has around 500 genes, and some are used for complex tasks such as making proteins and repairing and replicating DNA.” – Source

Who’s to say that with the ‘pithovirus‘ having the ability to create proteins, which is one of the essential components needed for life, that descendants of the pithovirus weren’t responsible for the basis of life on Earth? Scientists are confident that this and the ‘tupanvirus‘ aren’t as dependant on a host as modern viruses are. Imagine that life originated from one mutated virus that turned into a unicellular life form. It certainly adds another potential possibility of how life began.

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