Most of us, at one time or another, have had colds or the flu, and we are especially vulnerable during the cold and flu season. The symptoms — fever, congestion, coughing, sore throat — spread through offices, schools and homes, no matter where in the world we live. Viruses cause colds and the flu (influenza). Viruses are responsible for many other serious, often deadly, diseases including acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), Ebola hemorrhagic fever, infectious hepatitis and herpes. How can viruses cause so much trouble? What makes us so vulnerable to them, and what makes them spread?
Unlike human cells or bacteria, viruses don’t contain the enzymes needed to carry out the chemical reactions for life and are not capable of replicating their genes by themselves. Instead, viruses carry only one or two enzymes that decode their genetic instructions, and they must rely on a host cell for reproduction. In order for viral replication to occur, the virus must first infect a host cell. The virus injects its genetic material into the cell and uses the cell’s organelles to replicate. Once a sufficient number of viruses are replicated, the newly formed viruses lyse or break open the host cell and move on to infect other cells.
So, a virus is basically a microscopic parasite that must have a host cell in which to live and make more viruses. Outside of a host cell, viruses cannot function. For this reason, viruses tread the fine line that separates living things from nonliving things.
Viruses lie around our environment all of the time, just waiting for a host cell to come along. They can enter us through the nose, mouth or breaks in the skin. Once inside your body, they find a host cell to infect. For example, cold and flu viruses will attack cells that line the respiratory or digestive tracts. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, attacks the T-cells of the immune system.
Once inside the cell, the viral enzymes take over those enzymes of the host cell and begin making copies of the viral genetic instructions and new viral proteins using the virus’s genetic instructions and the cell’s enzyme machinery. The new copies of the viral genetic instructions are packaged inside the new protein coats to make new viruses.
When the new viruses are made, they leave the host cell in one of two ways:
-They break the host cell open (lysis) and destroy the host cell.
-They pinch out from the cell membrane and break away with a piece of the cell membrane surrounding them. This is how enveloped viruses leave the cell. In this way, the host cell is not destroyed.
Once free from the host cell, the new viruses can attack other cells. Because one virus can reproduce thousands of new viruses, viral infections can spread quickly throughout the body.
The sequence of events that occurs when you come down with the flu or a cold is a good demonstration of how a virus works:
- An infected person sneezes near you.
- You inhale the virus particle, and it attaches to cells lining the sinuses in your nose.
- The virus attacks the cells lining the sinuses and rapidly reproduces new viruses.
- The host cells break, and new viruses spread into your bloodstream and also into your lungs Because you have lost cells lining your sinuses, fluid can flow into your nasal passages and give you a runny nose.
- Viruses in the fluid that drips down your throat attack the cells lining your throat and give you a sore throat.
- Viruses in your bloodstream can attack muscle cells and cause you to have muscle aches.
Your immune system responds to the infection, and in the process of fighting, it produces chemicals called pyrogens that cause your body temperature to increase. This fever actually helps you to fight the infection by slowing down the rate of viral reproduction, because most of your body’s chemical reactions have an optimal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If your temperature rises slightly above this, the reactions slow down. This immune response continues until the viruses are eliminated from your body. However, if you sneeze, you can spread thousands of new viruses into the environment to await another host.
Some viruses, such as herpes and HIV, do not reproduce right away. Instead, they mix their genetic instructions into the host cell’s genetic instructions. When the host cell reproduces, the viral genetic instructions get copied into the host cell’s offspring.
The host cells may undergo many rounds of reproduction, and then some environmental or predetermined genetic signals will stir the “sleeping” viral instructions. The viral genetic instructions will then take over the host’s enzyme machinery and make new viruses.
Because a virus is merely a set of genetic instructions surrounded by a protein coat, and because it does not carry out any biochemical reactions of its own, viruses can live for years or longer outside a host cell. Some viruses can “sleep” inside the genetic instructions of the host cells for years before reproducing. For example, a person infected with HIV can live without showing symptoms of AIDS for years, but he or she can still spread the virus to others.
Contrary to popular belief, antibiotics have no effect on a virus. Most antibiotics interfere with the reproduction of bacteria, hindering their creation of new genetic instructions or new cell walls. Because viruses do not carry out their own biochemical reactions, antibiotics do not affect them.
Natural ways to fight viruses
Both L-lysine and Olive Leaf are very effective at fighting viruses.
Extracts from olive leaves have been shown to treat infection caused by a large number of viruses as well as bacteria, parasitic protozoans, and fungi. A phytochemical in olive leaf, call oleuropein, is able to stop viruses in their tracks. Oleuropein neutralizes the enzymes that are important for the virus to replicate itself and spread. Oleuropein also has the ability to interfere with the critical amino acid production essential for viruses.
L-lysine, an essential amino acid, may be the most effective treatment against the herpes virus. Lysine is both preventative as well as able to treat active infections. When combined with zinc, lysine has been shown to eliminate nearly all herpes virus symptoms within six days.
In addition to fighting viruses, L-lysine has many other benefits.
- L-lysine helps fight cancer.
- It reduces anxiety.
- It helps the body absorb calcium to prevent osteoarthritis.
- It benefits people with diabetes by preventing the production of advanced glycation end products which can lead to infection.
- It supports a healthy gut by preventing leaky gut syndrome and also suppresses inflammation that leads to pancreatitis.