Ebola, influenza, small pox and Corona virus. Just some of the most dangerous viruses historically known to latch onto humanity. Their deathly reputation has us convinced viruses hold detrimental power on our lives. October the third however, creates controversy. Less commonly known as virus appreciation day, it shows people commemorating the miniscule organisms. Whilst some may be living in fear, others are embracing their presence. 

The inspiration for this uncommon holiday originated from the exploration of the cowpox virus in 1796. Edward Jenner, an English doctor, discovered that a vaccination of mild cowpox could provide immunity against the small pox virus. As this information spread, the predominantly frowned upon entity began to develop a positive reputation amongst scientists. 

How can viruses possibly be good?

Historic evidence and studies have shown that 8% of the human genome contains the remains of ancient retroviruses which have been passed through generations. 60 million years ago a captive retroviral envelope called syntin found its way into humans and other mammals. Its properties enhanced the evolution of the placenta allowing a barrier to be built between mother and foetus whilst still supplying substantial nutrients. Evidently the use of the viruses here have positive effects on our development into functional beings. Allowing questions to arise on certain 'unfair' stereotypes. 

A protective phage is a type of virus that is now genetically engineered for our benefit. Despite this, it can be naturally located in the mucus membrane lining of digestive, respiratory and reproductive regions. Its ability to infect and destroy harmful bacteria’s such as skin infections, salmonella and even some cases of sepsis proves it relevance in maintaining life. 

Modern medicine for or against viruses?

One in two people will be diagnosed. Sound familiar? A statistic many may find unsettling. Cancer. The cause of many people’s grief and suffering and yet there is still hope. An Oncolytic virus may have substantial benefits in the fight against cancer. It works by creating a form of immunotherapy that uses viruses to destroy and pop cancerous cells in turn dissolving tumours and supporting patients in their recovery. Such work may be classed as life changing and revolutionary, all due to the help from a virus.

Similarly, the injection of viruses can be used to insert genes into cells which can reverse genetic diseases. The blood disorder, haemophilia, can be treated using this method to support blood clotting. In these scenarios, viruses are seen as heroic to the minority who are aware of their benefits. Although this knowledge isn’t yet well enough taught to the majority. 

Their negative stereotypes mask the attributes they provide us with and instead leave the population in fear. The past two years have created tension involving this topic despite their properties assisting the world for countless years. Using the knowledge we have on viruses, our understanding on such complex entities will continue to grow further and help shape a better future. October the third helps to combat preconceptions engrained into society.