Why can’t we cure viruses?

 

 

Why can’t viruses, such as Covid-19, be cured?

 

We all know that antibiotics cure bacteria, but our immune system is still largely on its own when it comes to viruses.  Antibiotics are no help against the viruses that attack us.

 

The main reason  for this is that viruses are not technically alive!   Instead, they depend on our body’s cells in order to reproduce.  Viruses have to have a host to reproduce; they can’t survive on their own.  So scientists can’t use any agent to fight the virus that would hurt our own cells, where the viruses are hiding out.

 

Sometimes enzymes on the viruses can be targeted, which is how antiviral drugs work against HIV for example.  But even then, the drugs don’t cure the virus, they just keep it under control.

 

Another reason that viruses are hard to treat is that there are many different types of viruses and they are not related to each other.  Different viruses cause a huge range of diseases, such as common colds, chicken pox, SARS, Ebola, hepatitis, and Covid. Some of their genetic codes use RNA, others use DNA; some are surrounded by a protective envelope, others are not.

 

Bacteria on the other hand are all related to each other, and have common features such as having a cell wall.  So it is easier to make antibiotics to fight them.

 

When a virus infects our body, each cell becomes a virus factory, with the virus taking over and replicating within the cell.  Eventually the cell burst, releasing thousands of new viruses which then go on to infect other cells.  Our body’s defense is to make antibodies to fight the disease.   Our antibodies bind to the virus and then our white blood cells can destroy them.

 

Scientists have had many more years of experience in treating bacterial infections compared to viral infections.  Bacteria were first seen under a microscope in 1683.  But viruses were not discovered until 200 years later!  We have only had antiviral drugs for the last few decades.

 

And the antiviral drugs we have do not always help.  For example the medication for the Influenza A, Tamiflu, can help shorten the duration of the symptoms, but only if given early.  It does not cure the disease.  Scientists have made great strides in developing anti-viral medications, such as for hepatitis and HIV, but there is still a long ways in finding effective treatments for most viral infections.

Antibodies (blue) attacking a virus (green):

virus ab

 

How far does a sneeze go?

When we sneeze or cough, we are actually spraying out a cloud of mucous and saliva to the area around us.

We all know to cover our nose and mouth when we sneeze or cough, but if someone else sneezes or coughs you should probably consider backing away, because the spray can spread further and faster than you would think!

The average sneeze or cough sends about 100,000 contagious germs into the air at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

Researchers have found that he most critical time for spread of those germs is in the first few minutes after the sneeze or cough occurs.

The average cough can travel over 19 feet, and the average sneeze can travel up to 26 feet!

Sneeze cam:

sneeze

Motherhood health facts

For Mother’s Day, here are some facts on motherhood:

  • Less than 5% of babies are born on their due date.
  • Babies born in May are the heaviest.
  • The heaviest baby ever born weighed 22 pounds 8 ounces and was born in Italy.
  • When a woman is pregnant, the amount of blood in her body increases by 50%.
  • The average length of labor is 6 1/2 hours.
  • Pain medication during childbirth was not accepted until Queen Victoria inhaled chloroform during the birth of her eight child, Prince Leopold in 1853.
  • The average baby goes through 3360 diapers their first year.
  • In the first year after birth, the average parent is deprived of 663 hours of sleep.

sleep

Why don’t babies shiver?

When children and adults are cold, they shiver as a way to create heat.  Shivering causes muscle contraction, which in turn, creates warmth.

But did you know that babies don’t shiver?

The reason that babies don’t shiver is that they have a special type of fat (adipose) tissue, called “brown fat”.  Brown fat burns more calories than adult fat (which is whitish yellow in color) and releases more heat.  Babies have brown fat around their necks, chests, back and butt, and the brown fat acts like a warm coat to keep them warm.

Of course the brown fat is not enough to keep babies warm in the cold, and they still need to be bundled up.

A recent study with PET scans found that some adults still have brown fat.  Interestingly, these adults tended to be thinner than people without brown fat, probably because the brown fat is burning more calories.

baby

Weird quarantine facts

As the world continues to quarantine due to Covid-19, here are some weird facts that are occurring during the pandemic:

  • Physical exercise has decreased by 48%
  • Sales of pretzels are and potato chips are up 30%
  • Traffic accidents have fallen by as much as 50% since stay-at-home orders went into place.
  • Calls to child abuse hotlines have decreased by 20%.
  • Calls to suicide hotlines have increased as much as 800% in some areas, thought due to social isolation and economic stressors.
  • Calls to Poison Centers are up by 20%,  which is thought to be due to increased use of home cleaning supplies.
  • Visits to the Emergency Department have decreased by up to 50%.  This is thought to be due to concern of getting infected by others during a hospital visit.
  • The rate of heart attacks has decreased by 40% worldwide.
  • Both alcohol and marijuana sales are up by 50%.

highway

Can donating blood make YOU healthier?

In the United States, someone needs a blood transfusion every 2 seconds.  There are 41,000 blood donations needed per day!

What about during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?  The Surgeon General states that blood donations are needed during this time, and that appointments for blood donations should continue.

What about the people who donate blood?  Do they get any benefit?

Studies have shown that blood donors are 88% less likely to have a heart attack!   This is thought to be due to the fact that donating blood decreases the viscosity, or thickness of the blood, and therefore donors are less likely to develop heart blockages.

Blood donors are less likely to be hospitalized, and if they are, they have shorter lengths of hospital stays.

When you donate blood, you get a mini physical, as you get your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure checked.

Blood donations are tested for 13 different diseases, and if anything is positive, the donor will be notified immediately.  Of course, if a person knows they have an infectious disease, they should not donate blood.

Another benefit is that when you donate blood, your  body has to burn calories to produce new blood.  When you donate one pint of blood, you burn 650 calories!

But the most important reason to donate blood is that donating a single time can save up to three lives!

blood

What percentage of people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom?

After using the bathroom, 10% of people don’t wash their hands at all!

Studies have shown that 15% of men and 7% of women don’t wash their hands after using the toilet.

For those who do wash, 33% don’t use soap.

It’s even worse for school students age 8-17, as researchers found that 89% of children don’t wash their hands.

Because of the lack of hand washing, researchers have found that that the doorknobs of bathrooms harbor such bacteria as streptococcus, staphylococcus, E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter.

So what can you do to prevent infection in a public bathroom?  After washing your hands use a paper towel or tissue to turn the water faucets on and off, and use a paper towel to open the door when you exit.

bathroom

How many people die a day in motor vehicle accidents?

In the United States, over 100 people die a day in motor vehicle accidents.   Traffic accidents cause more than 36,500 deaths each year in our country.

One in seven people people do not wear seatbelts while driving.  Seatbelts reduce the risk of death from a car crash by 45%.  People not wearing a seatbelt are 30% more likely to be ejected from their vehicle during a crash.

Alcohol is involved in 40% of motor vehicle crashes.

People who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash.  Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%.

Since the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, there have been 50% fewer car accidents compared to the same period in 2019, due to less traffic on the roads.

 

mva

 

 

You’re dreaming!

Even thought they may seem much longer, most dreams only last 5-20 minutes.

Dreams occur mostly during a phase of sleep called Rapid Eye Movement (REM), which is a period of sleep with very high brain activity, and is almost like being awake.  REM phases get longer during the night, so our dreams get longer as the night progresses.

The average person has 7 different dreams per night.
Most people forget 90-95% of their dreams.
12% of people only dream in black and white.
People who were born blind have dreams but without the sense of sight.  People who became blind later in life still have dreams with visual perceptions.
Scientific studies have shown that animals have REM phases and have dreams.
There is a practice called “lucid dreaming”, where people learn to control their dreams, and even use dreams to problem solve (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-control-dreams/).
dream

Does drinking alcohol prevent Alzheimer’s?

There is evidence that moderate alcohol consumption can prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.

 

A study by Rush University tracked 960 people who did not have dementia.  The average age of the participants in the study was 81 years old.  They found that those who drank a glass of wine daily were less likely to have cognitive decline, and had improved memory and perceptual speed.

 

Another study from Chicago’s Loyola University School of Medicine looked at 365,000 participants.  They found that those who consumed moderate alcohol were 23% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia.  However heavy drinkers (3-5 drinks per day) did not show improvement.

 

A recent study from the Korean Brain Aging Study for Early Diagnosis and Prediction of Alzheimer’s Disease looked at 548 individuals.   All participants underwent clinical assessments,  PET scan, and brain MRI.  A moderate lifetime alcohol intake (1-13 drinks a week) found lower amyloid deposition in the brain.  Amyloid is a type of protein that the body normally  produces, however Alzheimer’s patients develop abnormal clumps of amyloid between the brain cells.  The Korean study found that alcohol consumption appeared to reduce this abnormal amyloid deposition.

amyloid