Invasion Of The Body Snatchers?

Here come a couple of questions that might sound silly but they have meaning as some crazies, abetted by the damaged goods in the White House, press governors to go back to open stores, open bars and restaurants, full employment and “f… that virus!” That would be totally reckless.

Early, mostly-cave-dwelling humans did not say “let’s go out” when they knew there were  giant hyenas, cave bears, cave lions,  saber-toothed cats, false saber-toothed cats, or giant, predatory kangaroos in the neighborhood.

The questions?

Is the coronavirus SARS-CoV2 alive, and is it out there hunting for new bodies to inhabit like a parasite so it can feed itself and reproduce?

In other words, is it something like in the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which plant spores grow into large seed pods that kill and produce duplicate copies of their human victims?

The answer to #1 is maybe. To #2 a definite no.

The “maybe” is because once this virus gets into you, it sheds its coat of benign particle smaller than any bacteria, uses your cells to produce more viral proteins to invade more cells. And so some scientists have long regarded a virus as the simplest of all living, gene-bearing life-forms.

But you’ll get argument on that. The dominant view seems to be that this one exists at the boundary between chemistry and life. Some virologists have said it exists “as a kind of borrowed life.” The H1N1 (below) was such a virus, which hit in 2009 and is considered to be a participating variety in the Spanish flu of 1918.

Bacteria, on the other hand, are alive. Although they are single celled, they can generate energy and the molecules needed to “feed” themselves and reproduce.

The virus isn’t waiting to leap on you. Versions apparently have been around at least through human evolution. If one human gets it, he can pass it on to many others. But to be clear, it cannot thrive and reproduce outside of a host body, human or animal. So while it’s not hunting for you, it’s very happy when it gets you because you were reckless.

No, it doesn’t “think.” It just goes to work invading your cells and making them part of the infection.

I’d put it this way, borrowing one expert’s explanation: They hijack various parts of your cellular machinery.

Sometimes you hardly notice and your anti-bodies quickly kill off the invader. Sometimes you get like a bad cold, like the flu. Sometimes — usually if you have serious medical issues already — you die gasping for air for your lungs.

Of course, in the latter case the virus dies, too, unless there been some quick human contact with the deceased’s body or fluids.

But while you’re alive and infected, these little guys quickly go to work creating conditions that allow for them to spread through your upper body.

Would you call that a “living thing”? In layman terms, I’d say yes, probably. But I’m a science fan and so my public answer is: Without your cells to pillage, viruses would not be able to multiply. Therefore, viruses are not living things.

But we are. We stand a good chance of being dead things if we follow the crazies’ call to “open ‘er up and let the good times roll!”

Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

4 replies on “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers?”

  1. It’s sad that there has to be an argument over this. Obviously, people are suffering both physically and economically from the coronavirus. Let’s hope things change for the better.

  2. You have to love (not!) people that want it both ways when it suits them, but take no responsibility for it when their decision bites them in the butt.

    Let’s see if any of these people that want everything to open up again to sign a waiver that exempts them from getting any free or subsidized medical care if they get Covid-19 and can be sued if they pass it on to amyone else as well. Let’s tack on financial damages as well if their particular area blows up again and they have to shut down again, furthering the delay even longer.

    Selfish, thoughtless people that only care about their own lives and take advantage of the government only when it serves them is pitiful.

    And while they’re at it, since they care so little about our government, they should tear up their stimulus checks too.


  3. Talk about Body Snatchers!

    During the 2018 Spanish Flu Pandemic which killed 50 million people worldwide, 72 of the 80 residents of the Eskimo Village of Brevig Mission 90 miles North of Nome Alaska (my home) died of the Spanish Flu. That same year, The Alaska Territorial Government hired Nome miners to travel to Brevig to bury the bodies.

    In 2005, scientists, hoping that some of the bodies might still have live virus cells in their lung tissue preserved by the frozen permafrost, traveled to Brevig, and with the permission of the elders of the village, took samples from one of the bodies and were able to sequence the full genome of the viral DNA and design a vaccine that could prevent another pandemic of that virus if it reappeared.

    That’s not to say it could not reappear in a mutated form but at least they would have a head start.

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