The reason we get sick is the overabundance of bacteria and viruses in our body. When our white blood cells fail to keep these harmful Microbes in check, our body loses its control and that’s when these tiny fellows take over. But did you know that a study shows that viruses can get sick too?

Viruses are like us

Before scientists discovered that viruses can get infected as well, they considered them to be non-living. They aptly described viruses as random genetic coding that interferes with our body’s usual function. However, the discovery of a virus attacking another virus left the scientists bewildered about the true nature of these parasitic organisms.

It seems that just like us, they can get sick once exposed to harmful viruses in their environment.

In 2008, scientists from the Universite de la Mediterranee in France identified a large virus infecting an amoeba. They called it mimivirus or microbe-mimicking virus and observed that the amoeba’s own virus was infected by a smaller virus. This smaller virus was then called a Sputnik.

Sputnik is the first member of a newly-discovered class of viruses that researchers call virophages. According to the researchers, virophages are viruses that infect or make other viruses sick. Sputnik can’t really multiply without its preferred host, thus it always needs another viral host to do so. Once the amoeba is infected with the mimivirus, Sputnik enters and hijacks the mimivirus’ cellular system and multiplies at the expense of its host.

Once the Sputniks have multiplied, the replicated particles of the mimivirus then gather abnormally. In other words, this virus is now being killed by its own poison. Not an excellent way to die if you are the spreader of disease, right?

Alive and not alive at the same time

Wendell M. Stanley showed in 1935 that viruses were nothing more than biochemical packages that lack the most fundamental metabolic functions.

This meant back then that viruses were considered to be non-living. His discovery won him the Nobel Prize not in medicine or biology, but in chemistry. However, Jean-Michele Claverie – the scientist who helped discover the Sputnik – said that a virus infecting other viruses is a proof that they are alive. The fact that they multiply and mutate is also proof that they are living beings. But the fact that viruses are being destroyed by another virus is indeed some happy news for mankind.