Scientists Discover Virus That Makes You Stupid (True Story)
While performing a completely unrelated experiment, researchers from John Hopkins University may have accidentally found a virus that causes “stupidity” in people. The algal virus, called ATCV-1, may impair brain activity, learning and memory in those infected, which could impact mental capacity and intelligence levels.
This virus typically infects a specific type of algae found in rivers and lakes. It has not been known to infect humans before, but the researchers found the virus in 43.5% of the 92 healthy volunteers who were participating in the study.
After unexpectedly stumbling across traces of ATCV-1 in human DNA samples from throat swabs from healthy volunteers, the research team did a database search to identify the unknown virus. They then continued with the research to find that the presence of this virus in humans was linked to decreased spatial awareness, lower attention spans and a “statistically significant decrease in the performance on cognitive assessments of visual processing and visual motor speed.”
Further tests were done on mice, in which the mice were injected in the mouth with infected algae. The mice that were infected showed significantly less ability to find their way out of mazes, and seemed perplexed by new objects placed in with them. The study reported that the virus appeared to impact the “learning, memory formation, and the immune response to viral exposure” of the mice.
Dr. Robert Yolken who led the research team, said that ATCV-1 may work by changing gene expression in the brain area that is responsible for higher brain functions. He added that he had suspected for some time that viruses are capable of affecting human intelligence.
Although this study was unintended, it does give a good example of how human behavior and psychology is more than the sum of the genes you inherit from your parents. It shows the yet to be researched potential of how much we are influenced by the trillions of microorganisms that live in our bodies.