While researching the inevitable zombie apocalypse, our team has studied everything from parasites and chemical weapons to deadly diseases and viruses. We followup on every lead and every possibility; constantly searching for any source of infection with the potential to change, mutate, adapt or evolve into a deadly zombie virus. As if our work isn’t hard enough, a recent discovery has completely changed the game; a virus that can infect another virus!
The first virophage reported in 2008 was a satellite virus known as Sputnik, which shared its name with the first artificial Earth satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. Obviously fans of George A. Romero’s zombie cult classic Night of the Living Dead will be reminded of the Venus Space Probe, which was rumored to be the catalyst for reanimating the dead.
It’s really an interesting bit of trivia, to be sure; but we digress. Since the discovery of Sputnik, scientists have found even more novel viruses nested inside of other viruses. The most recent virophages were discovered and named by Joshua Stough, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan. Perhaps you’ve heard of them; CpV-PLV Larry, Curly, and Moe.
“I originally named them to see if I can get away with it,” says Joshua Stough, now a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan. He’s a co-author of a new paper describing and naming the Three Stooges, so, in fact, he has gotten away with it.
All three of these viruses are what are known as virophages, viruses that specialize in infecting other viruses. Virophages were first discovered infecting giant viruses from a water-cooling tower in 2008 … scientists have isolated only a handful more—all from giant viruses that infect microscopic organisms such as algae or amoebas. It’s a virus inside a virus inside a cell.
It kinda’ seems like a cheeky name for these insidious viruses that could mutate, evolve, and eventually infect the world with a deadly zombie pathogen. But we understand; lab work can be oppressively boring. However, the implications for zombie research are now expanded beyond belief. The prospects, the possibilities, the avenues of research that this one discovery opens up are too numerous to count. It’s almost as if the cause of the inevitable zombie virus suddenly thrust itself into a dense multiverse; instantly branching out to infinity and beyond!
The theoretical concept of viruses infecting other viruses is now a scientific fact. But very little is actually known about the physiology or ecology of these virophages, and their full potential remains a mystery. Obviously, certain diseases and viruses are incompatible with one another. However, serious virologist are finally forced to think about layers, mergers, and composites.
Curtis Suttle at the University of British Columbia suggests that the relationship between a giant virus and a virophage is akin to Russian nesting dolls; implying that the effects on its host are complex, stratified, and perhaps intrinsic to the very nature of the original virus itself.
To paraphrase virologist Jean-Michel Claverie from the CNRS UPR laboratories in Marseilles, the fact that a giant virus can “get sick” due to infection via virophage actually makes it more alive, more unpredictable, and maybe even more deadly than we formally thought possible.
Of course, members of the Zombie Research Society Advisory Board have been warning the population about these deadly combinations for years. Our founder emeritus Matt Mogk was a visionary; describing the phenomenon on college campuses nearly ten years ago. And our organization will continue to lead the discussion regarding the science, culture, and survival of the living dead. In the meantime, please read the following articles for more information.
“Even Viruses Can Get Infected With Other Viruses“, by author Sarah Zhang published online at The Atlantic provides a very brief overview of the most recent virophages named after The Three Stooges; Larry, Curly, and Moe. But for those of you more scientifically inclined, please follow the discovery of giant viruses and their infection by virophages which eventually led to all of this new information via “Genome and Environmental Activity of a Chrysochromulina parva Virus and Its Virophages” which is now available online via Frontiers in Microbiology.
Scientific discoveries such as these weave a complicated web of possibilities, so learn what you can right here and now. Because, as we always say: what you don’t know can eat you!