Royalty and the Common cold
H5N1 – 0075 looked thoughtfully at his companion, he was small for a virus but purposeful and very adaptable. He was called SARS – 0213, one of the Corona viruses. His campaign has very nearly been successful. He and his family had moved through the population quite slowly and stealthily but the humans had reacted quickly, using all their skill and cunning to put their hygiene and infection protocols to best use and so they had defeated the spread of SARS. The family had been new to this war and so had not fully utilised their natural evolutionary ability to mutate.
They were now reduced to a residual infection that stayed at a low level in spite of all their best efforts. They were regrouping and honing their mutation strategy to equip themselves better for the new outbreak in the human herd. They were thinking of copying the very successful flu virus system of mutating during each summer and infecting the humans as the temperatures started dropping in late autumn. That had been very successful in 1918 with some 20 million human deaths but most viruses thought they were a spent force now that the humans had their adaptive flu vaccine in place for each season and so had gained the holy grail of herd immunity.
A breakaway group of SARS viruses – Severe acute respiratory syndrome – had looked at the possibility of mutating such that they could infect poultry, especially chickens, so that cross species infection could occur. This was, of course, possible and fairly easy but the avian flu viruses were well organised and their union was strongly against any other virus moving in on their territory. If the SARS tried this they would be up against a group of battle hardened avian flu warriors and they knew they could not infect dead chickens – the avianers were that ruthless, egged on as they were by the union coop stewards.
All this went through H5N1 – 0075’s brain as he considered and then rejected the idea of recruiting the SARS as allies in the continuing fight against the humans.
He had been given a free rein by the Virus Organising Body ( VOB ) so his next idea was to move up market and try to negotiate an alliance with the bacteria. He knew this would be difficult because, although they had been badly affected by the use of antibiotics, their research scientists were now winning the war and breeding resistance to antibiotics in most of the eukaryotes. This meant they were getting more confident of victory and so, typically, they were reluctant to negotiate – seeing no need of alliances with what they considered to be inferior life forms. Some of them did not think viruses were life forms at all. He felt very small when he thought about this on his way to the meeting he had set up.
He was ushered into the throat of the meeting rooms, where he was kept waiting for 23 minutes before being shown into the presence of MRSA – 00995. He waited until he was invited to sit down. He knew this bacterium was a direct descendent of the highly successful Yersinia pestis that had been the cause of the bubonic plague outbreak in the 14th century and killed an estimated 50 million people. He was in the presence of greatness – and the MRSA specimen in front of him was fully aware of it and intended to take full advantage of his reputation.
They didn’t shake hands – too much risk of infection – and sat down across a petri dish. The growth medium had been specially prepared in the bacteria’s kitchens to be suitable for sharing with a virus. It was based on a fungus but that’s another story – don’t get me started on Fungi – I regard them as second rate mushrooms.
The MRSA bacterium opened by saying that he thought the viruses had no more weapons in their locker so why should the eukaryotes be interested in a deal? Their queen, MRSA 001, had decreed that the viruses were not her subjects and so could not be included in her court, or indeed, the aristocracy because they did not have ‘gold’ as part of their name. ‘We are the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and are rightly proud of our lineage,’ she had been know to declare – many times.
The H5N1 responded by describing in detail the Ebola virus and how successful it had been so far and its plans for the future. using bioelectronics to convert it to the more deadly i bola. ‘We see this as one of the viruses for the future as it has plans to use the human’s transport system to move and proliferate around the world. We really believe this could be an existential moment for the human race. Bacteria will then become irrelevant as far as the human war issue is concerned,’ he opined. ‘The MRSA family can, after all, be defeated merely by hand washing and a simple hygiene regime,’
The MRSA looked uncomfortable, but riposted that they were working on antibiotic resistant strains.
‘Well, it isn’t working well is it? The latest I heard was that you are in full retreat.’
‘Just as you are with the HIV virus.’
They batted back and forth for a while before agreeing a loose alliance between them. They agreed to not to attack the same humans and would not fight each other.
The H5N1 hurried off, he had a case of warts to encourage and a meeting planned with a group of HPVs – Human Papilloma Virus – to show them how to best exploit the human vulnerability to porcine originated warts – or hogwarts as they were known.
The viruses had their own aristocracy and lower orders, similar to the human class system. The novo viruses were at the top of the tree of course but some of the others were sick of this and wanted the role of the lower classes of viruses to be more fully recognised. The ringleaders in this insurgency were the rhino viruses – they were ideally suited for this role as they were pachydermic anyway.
Chief among these was the common cold – CC-0001. He was deeply resentful of his name – ‘We have probably caused more human misery than the rest of viruses and indeed bacteria put together,’ he said as he made his leader’s speech to the annual conference – held during the summer in Margate while the rhinos had very little to do. ‘Just because we are common, not to say ubiquitous, doesn’t mean that we are not very effective. We will fight the humans on the handkerchiefs, on the sniffing grounds – we will never surrender to the aspirin or the paracetamol. We will always be a headache to the human race.’
This speech started a revolution as the contribution to human misery by the Common Colds was finally recognised by the other viruses. The phage was set for the phinal confrontation with the human race. The common colds were not to be sneezed at in future.
A-Tishoo. ‘Excuse me,’ said CC-0001.
© Richard Kefford 2017 Eorðdraca
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