A virus is deﬁned as being one of a group of minute infectious agents. The size of these ultramicroscopic entities is less than one millionth part of a meter. It would take about one trillion of the individual virus particles huddled together in a solid clump to be seen under an ordinary laboratory microscope. To visualize a virus we must use a modern miracle device, the electron microscope, which causes a beam of electrons in- stead of light to ﬂow over the subject being investigated and, in this way, to form an image for viewing on a ﬂuorescent screen. With this device, the electron microscope, the virus particle can be seen, photographed, and studied.
Viruses lack independent metabolism. They cannot fend for themselves for food and energy but must become a part of a host’s actual life to remain viable and to sustain the ability to be reproductive. They fit the definition of parasites because of this dependence upon a host to maintain their own existence.
The way in which viruses reproduce is different from that of other matter. The term used for this process is culled replication, which means that a virus is able to regenerate itself not only with genetic continuity, but also with the potential of producing viruses that are somewhat different from the original.
Special attention needs to be paid to this DNA virus as a disease agent. The Herpes virus is able to take over the life force of each cell, to destroy the purpose of that cell and cause it to become erratic and irascible in function. In ordinary times, the virus may enter our bodies. Our immune defenses are such that the Herpes virus seems strong enough only to be able to sneak into the body and subsequently into the nerve tissue. In the sheath of the nerves there are few blood vessels and consequently little blood supply to ﬁght the virus. In that location it can safely lie drowsing until some trigger event causes it to waken. When this happens, the virus begins to replicate.
Because of its property of being able to take over the life force of the cell, the original purpose of that cell is lost and the virus becomes the new despotic dictator of the actions of the cell. The one which is invaded might be a white blood cell whose ordinary function is to. clean up cellular debris in the venous stream drought! Then the water level falls, the overﬂow ceases, and waste begins to build up in the lake. The oxygen level of the water lessens and the ﬁsh are not as Well fed. The acidity of the water changes ever so slightly and the health of the ﬁngerlings begins to ebb. The immune defenses of the two ﬁsh whose tails are harboring the inactive bacteria begin to slip.
The bacteria which have been hiding for weeks notice the subtle change in the environment and they approve and begin to grow. As the condition of the lake worsens, the bacteria gain more strength until, in just 3 one ﬁsh, the whole direction of its life is determined by the bacteria and the little ﬁsh dies and spreads the infection to others. First one ﬁsh is lost, then another, and more and more until the entire school is threatened with destruction.
If a person can picture a single cell of the body as the tiny ﬁsh and a virus particle as the bacteria, one may be able to visualize that the virus can attack and take over the function of that cell and inﬂict its own destiny on that microscopic being. When the cell is destroyed: by the virus the virions spew out into the bloodstream to embed»themselves=in other cells and repeat the entire cycle of destruction.
To summarize, we have seen that viruses are so small that they can be seen only with the electron microscope or detected with chemical tests. These ultramicroscopic structures can take over the life force of a cell, determine the future of that cell, and affect the health of the body of which that cell is a part.
I have told you about the symptoms and some of what we now know about viruses to help answer the questions about the Herpes virus. Another question that you might like to ask is “Am I the only one who has it? Am I alone?”