How much do you really know about viruses? Here are some interesting facts and statistics that will give you a more complete picture of viruses & the role they play in our lives.
- Viruses are all around us, and like bacteria, most viruses are either harmless or helpful. “Biologists estimate that 380 trillion viruses are living on and inside your body right now–10 times the number of bacteria,” says professor David Pride (2020).
- There are around 320,000 known types of viruses that infect animals, but just 219 of which are known to infect humans. (Hilten-Anderson, 2020)
- Yet scientists say the actual number of viruses in the world could number in the trillions. Using genetic sampling, scientists have found at least 100 million different types of viruses that infect prokaryotes alone, which are bacteria and single-celled microbes. “Suffice it to say we have only sampled a miniscule fraction of the virusphere,” says virologist Edward Holmes. (Zimmer, 2020)
- Viruses routinely get swept up into the atmosphere, then return to earth via rain, snow and sandstorms.
- Scientists say half of all human DNA originally came from viruses, which infected us and then embedded themselves in our ancestor’s egg and sperm cells. Most of these embedded viruses are now extinct in the outside world.
- Some viruses are helpful. For example, one viral protein keeps your mother’s immune system from attacking you in the womb.
Scientists say we all may be the descendants of viruses. More than a billion years ago, it’s believed that a large DNA-based virus took up residence inside a bacterial cell, creating the first cell nucleus that spawned complex life.