Viruses are far more advanced forms of intelligence than any human mind will ever be able to understand. Microbiologists cannot say whether they are a form of life. But they contain the building blocks of all life as we know it, and can replicate themselves while causing various forms of human suffering, including death.
When I recently succumbed, yet again, to a flu-like illness, I was reminded of my pathology professors simple description of what viruses do to the human organism, exactly 40 years ago. They infect the membranes of the body causing various degrees of inflammation. My widespread muscle aching, headache, fever, chills, nasal congestion were really results of my immune system's attempt to throw off these minuscule rapidly dividing critters. Even after the virus has cleared out the immune system can remain turned on, vigilant, maybe confused. There are various post-viral syndromes, like other post-infectious syndromes, often empiric diagnoses, for on going dis-ease of uncertain origin. In the midst of my temporary misery, I resolved to update myself about virology and bought,for a few bucks, a thick, used textbook on virology. It is curious that there are potent, extremely successful anti-virals for HIV, Smallpox, Polio, Hepatitis C, certain herpes viruses, and so forth, but for others...Ebola, Zika, Marburg, West Nile...there is nothing.
As I reviewed what has occurred in microbiology in the last 40 years, I was reminded of the remarkable understanding of the cellular computer hard-and-software that is the basis for life that biochemists have nailed. The electron micrograph images of these organisms are both beautiful and terrifying. One can only imagine the energy inherent in them, to be able to insert themselves in living cells and using the tools inherent in that cell, trigger copies of itself numbering hundreds of thousands per milliliter of blood. Why do some cause hepatitis, others affect the heart, the central nervous system, the respiratory system, the GI tract...all pre-programmed eons ago, as if a grandmaster understood that humanity needed some sort of check on unfettered disease-free happiness.
My misery persisted for a month despite my best efforts. My sed rate rose to 83, so I have dubbed this the "This is what a sed rate of 83 feels like" illness. It has stricken the fear of snotty nosed coughers of all ages deep into my heart and contributed to my belief that :
1. I am getting to be too old for this line of work. And that:
2. no human or computer will ever be able to outsmart EVERY virus.
a mystery that bogles the mind.