Humans and microbes are interdependent. Humans are often the hosts, but so too are animals, plants and nature generally. In the main, these relationships are beneficial and harmless. Our dependence on microbes is critical to our own survival such as the bacteria in our gut.
But some microbes are viruses. These microbes require hosts – humans, animals and plants – in order to unleash their damaging, and, sometimes lethal power. It is the supreme parasite with a difference: it carries information in its core make-up in the form of DNA and RNA and then gains intelligibility in the host. And then like every intruder it creates havoc in the body. Machines can also be affected by cyber viruses. Their subversive information codes can jam up entire networks and impact the lives of millions. Cyber viruses can even penetrate lethal nuclear reactors and could accidentally set off nuclear accidents or precipitate cyber as well as other forms of warfare.
Once a virus’ genetic composition unravels into the body or the cyber virus hacks the network, then things literally go haywire. Like hay held together by clumsy wire, hence the term ‘haywire’, the body or the machine gets tied down, becomes dysfunctional for a duration until a repair can be made. Most times this invasion passes through the body or is reversed. But some viruses, like the Covid-19 virus, come armed with a spike and tentacles which debilitate the body’s cells and disables it from performing its proper function, often with fatal consequences. But thanks to our advancement in biology and epidemiology we have a fairly good picture of pathogens and have found vaccines to immunise ourselves against such invaders. Yet, our latest encounter with viruses at pandemic levels allows us to ponder and reflect on several points.