Coronavirus: Are we prepared for Viruses of the 21st century

By Jyoti Verma



To speak over the issue let us first understand what are viruses and why do we feel the need to talk about them.




What are Viruses

Viruses are very small parasites, germs smaller than bacteria, they are so small that we cannot see them with naked eyes. To survive and reproduce they need a host body be it of animals, birds or humans. 

In spite of their small structure they are very dangerous and are a threat to living beings. It is because of their capacity to spread contamination and infections. Common flu, HIV/AIDS, Ebola etc. are few known viral diseases and recently emerged pandemic COVID-19 has actually disrupted the systems globally.

The 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, and the 2009 H1N1/swine flu pandemic, SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003, and now in 2020 outbreak of Corona (COVID-19) – the widespread of diseases because of these viruses and the loss of lives and other disturbances caused by them is actually scaring mankind.

For scientists and researchers  such viruses  are crafty devices ,biological weapons or research tools created to understand the basic cellular processes such as the mechanics of protein synthesis and of viruses themselves. 




Origin of the Viruses

Different theories are emerging from time to time regarding their origin. Thus the theory of their origin is quite unclear.




Size of the Viruses

According to a report, the virus is 220 nanometres in size but they can also differ in size. They are smaller than bacteria. For instance, the measles virus is about 8 times smaller than E.coli bacteria.The hepatitis virus is 45 nm in size and is about 40 times smaller than E.coli. According to an analogy presented by  David R. Wessner, a professor of biology at Davidson College: The polio virus is 30 nm in size and  is about 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt.





By the end of the 19th century it was a well established fact that microorganisms, especially bacteria, could cause diseases. Varied reports have been presented from time to time as a testimony to this fact.

.Like, in an 1886 research paper titled “Concerning the Mosaic Disease of Tobacco,” Adolf Mayer, a German chemist and agricultural researcher, published the results of his extensive experiments. Specifically, Mayer mentioned that when he crushed infected leaves and injected the noxious juice into the veins of healthy tobacco leaves it resulted in the yellowish speckling and discoloration characteristic of the disease.

He aptly surmised that the cause of tobacco mosaic disease was present in the leafy juice. He also felt  that the disease causing germs had bacterial origin, but he was unable to isolate the agents of disease as they were not identifiable under a microscope. Even he could not recreate the disease by injecting healthy plants with a range of known bacteria. 

According to another report in 1892, a Russian student named Dmitri Ivanovsky essentially repeated Mayer’s juicing experiments but with a bit of a twist. According to a 1972 article published in the journal Bacteriological Reviews, Ivanovsky passed the juice from infected leaves through a Chamberland filter, a filter fine enough to capture bacteria and other known microorganisms. Despite the sieving, the liquid filtrate remained infectious, that was quite baffling as  whatever was causing the disease was too small to pass through the filter.

Thus, Ivanovsky also concluded that the cause of tobacco mosaic disease was bacteria. She made a point that the filtrate “contained either bacteria or a soluble toxin.” It was the time in 1898 when the presence of viruses was not in anyone’s notice.
It was a Dutch scientist Martinus Beijerinck, who agreed and confirmed  Ivanovsky’s observations and said that  the cause of tobacco mosaic disease was not bacterial but a “living liquid virus.”
The experiments of Ivanovsky, Beijerinck and others that followed only pointed to the existence of viruses. It would take a few more decades before anyone actually saw a virus.

Yet according to a 2009 article published in the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews, once the electron microscope was developed in 1931 by German scientists Ernst Ruska and Max Knoll, the first virus could be visualized with the new high resolution technology. These first images taken by Ruska and colleagues in 1939 were of the tobacco mosaic virus. This brought the discovery of viruses into flashlights
After this also research on viruses was being conducted on a large scale. Still scientists are finding the different sources of their origin and their ways to get into the host body.




Functioning of Virus

Viruses act just like hijackers. They attack living, normal cells and use those cells as their house to multiply and produce other viruses like themselves. This process is fatal as it can kill, damage, or change the cells and make a person sick. Different viruses attack certain cells in the body such as liver, respiratory system, or blood.

One may not notice the presence of viruses as sometimes they show no symptoms because of the body’s ability to fight them off.




For most viral infections, treatments can only help with symptoms

  1.  Antibiotics do not work for viral infections.
  2. Antiviral medicines are used to treat some viral infections. 
  3. Vaccines can help in preventing many viral diseases.
  4. Immunity enhancement is the natural way to survive in the cases of viruses.




Challenge or Preparedness in the times of Viruses

Due to modernization, the lifestyle of most people has also changed which has caused low immunity in today’s times. We need to recheck our lifestyles and rebuild it on a war footing scale to cope with the world of viruses.

A lot of speedy research is going on to defeat the viruses and the ways to boost the  immune system of the people against these viruses.

Scientific ways, medicines, vaccinations, sanitizations are also being searched, people are being more conscious and aware.

But alas! In spite of all this preparedness these viruses are becoming a challenge day by day. But humanity is not defeated. Certainly , ways will be found to defeat them.

The most important thing for human beings is to develop scientific attitudes and to learn to respect, cherish and treasure nature all the more to survive and defeat this world of viruses.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the human race is God’s creation which is ready and is capable enough to cope or fight with these viruses yet right now we need to do a lot to defeat these devils.


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