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Re: CULT: viruses

From: GWhite & LRader <bentfork@navix.net>

John Montgomery wrote:

> There are no cures for viruses but in almost all instances they do little long
> term harm.  Humans do not die as a rule when they catch a virus.  Neither do
> most plants.  The best treatment for virus in plants is to do nothing.  If the
> plant dies you can be sure that was a fitting end for it no matter whether it
> cost two dollars or two hundred.

    You may be right about plant viruses, in that there are no cures.  I am not a
plant pathologist.  But somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I recall that
viruses, as you say are, often introduced by insect damage or other plant wounds.
I also recall that some of these viruses can be devastating to certain plants.  For
instance, the group of mosaic viruses can be serious threats to  crops.  Also, some
of these plant viruses can replicate in enormous numbers within cells of the
plants.  For instance, I recently read that Tobacco Mosaic Virus can account for as
much as 10% of the dry weight of the plant.
    I also have to take exception to your comment about viruses in humans.  If you
are talking about the Common Cold, you are right that humans don't die from it as a
rule; but there are viruses and then there are Viruses.  There are several viruses
which historically have caused millions of deaths throoughout the world.  One only
has to think of Influenza, Smallpox, Rabies, Hemorrhagic Fever,  Yellow Fever,
Human Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS), and the so-called Four Corners
Disease (Hantavirus) to name just a few.  These diseases (and several others) have
killed millions of people worldwide.  Hantavirus is a relatively new virus and
kills 50% of people who have documented infections.
    Hantavirus is a virus that is airborne and can be contracted by breathing dust
particles in the air that harbour the virus. The virus is carried by deer mice and
other closely related rodents.  You should avoid contact with these mice, their
nesting areas, feces, etc.  This virus, as I mentioned, can be very deadly.  And,
the disease seems to be spreading from the original discovery area - the four
corners area of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah.  Especially in the winter,
deer mice are likely to occupy tool sheds, abandoned buildings, etc.  Gardeners
should be especially cautious if they have outside tool or potting sheds, etc.
where these mice may hide.  Even for the patients who survive, the course of the
disease is long and involved.
    Another point about viruses, whether they be human or plant viruses, is that
they weaken the host and allow other disease entities such as bacteria, fungi, etc
to invade the organism and cause further damage (sometimes its this superinfection
that is fatal).  Treatment is difficult with viruses.  In medicine, there are
several antiviral drugs on the market which are used to treat everything from the
common cold to AIDS.  Some of these have been fairly successful in knocking back
some viruses, but have not been a cure.  The most effective treatment is prevention
in the form of vaccines.  The Polio vaccine has been very successful and the
smallpox vaccine has eliminated the disease entirely (at least, that's what the
Centers for Disease Control claims).
    In addition, there are new viruses being discovered (or re-emerging) fairly
frequently.  The North Carolina State University  has an interesting  New and
Emerging Plant Diseases Project that lists several viral diseases (mostly of food
crops, but some ornamentals are also listed).  One of the new plant diseases is
called High Plains Mosaic Virus which attacks corn and wheat and was first found in
1993.  The disease causes symptoms ranging from severe stunting and chlorosis to
death. The University of Nebraska is involved in research on this disease.
    The take-home message here is that viruses, whether they be plant or animal,
can cause catastrophic damage in their infected hosts.
    As for the iris connection, do we really know enough about iris viruses?  What
causes scorch?  Is a virus involved?  I don't know, but would be interested in
hearing of others' knowledge on this topic.

    Sorry for the length of this message, but I felt it was important to outline
the importance of viruses in our plants and ourselves.

Gary White
Lincoln, Nebraska

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