When most people think of viruses, they begin to recall episodes of colds and flu and symptoms associated with them. They identify viruses as harmful molecules flowing through their body, untreatable by antibiotics, meaning that the person will have to ride it out and treat the symptoms associated with the virus. Surprisingly, not all viruses, are harmful. Some viruses are good and serve a positive purpose.
Viruses are little microbes or organisms. They are not cells. Viruses are made up of protein, and to survive they must have a host. They are parasites that live off of other living things. Viruses are also capable of hibernating until they can find a host. They spread easily by exiting the body through sneezing or body fluids. They can be airborne or lay resting on the side of a sink or toilet. Protection against viruses is one of the reasons that handwashing is paramount.
The cowpox virus is considered as a helpful virus. Dr Edward Jenner discovered that when people became infected with cowpox, they did not get a more deadly virus called smallpox. Smallpox was responsible for many deaths and scarring when he discovered cowpox as a useful virus in 1796. Because of Dr. Jenner’s work, people are familiar with vaccinations. Because of the discovery of cowpox creating an immunity in people, vaccines were created that have ended smallpox throughout the world.
Studies have shown that when an infant is born, he or she has viruses in his or her stomach that help the baby to stay healthy. The viruses also travel through the intestinal system providing protection from harmful viruses. However, scientists have discovered that the infant has not one virus but a vast diversity of helpful viruses (2015).
Cancer research led to the identification of the use of oncolytic viruses as a treatment for certain types of tumors. One of the benefits of using oncolytic viruses as a cancer treatment is that it provides an alternative to chemotherapy or can administered along with radiation and chemotherapy (Gromeier, 2003).
Phages are viruses that can be found in mucus. Mucus plays a role in humans by capturing bacteria and foreign substances that could harm the human body. Phages attack harmful bacteria and destroy it. Also, phages are also found in human saliva and have molecules similar to antibodies. At present, researchers are taking a second look at the benefit of helpful viruses in the human body and as protection against harmful viruses (Skwarecki, 2013).