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Viral resistance

Posted by: Gygantar - Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:51 pm
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Viral resistance 
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Post Viral resistance   Posted on: Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:51 pm
I got this question that is rarely discussed...If we do meet alien life, how could we protect each other from viral contagion? I mean we all carry bacteries from our respective homeworlds, bacteries that we may have never seen or faced. How could we immunize each other (without being in a spacesuit all the time, or living in separate quarters) ???

Thank you for any input

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Post Re: Viral resistance   Posted on: Sun Mar 06, 2011 11:20 pm
Gygantar wrote:
I got this question that is rarely discussed...If we do meet alien life, how could we protect each other from viral contagion? I mean we all carry bacteries from our respective homeworlds, bacteries that we may have never seen or faced. How could we immunize each other (without being in a spacesuit all the time, or living in separate quarters) ???


Well we seem to have survived all the ones who have dropped in so far :wink:

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/03 ... eedfetcher

I think by the time we get to the stage of going visiting ourselves we will be well into the age of fully fledged nanotechnology so would be capable of building none noticeable spacesuits capable of two way protection.

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Post Re: Viral resistance   Posted on: Mon Mar 07, 2011 9:38 pm
This is what happens when space science is taught by Hollywood and TV...

The odds of two organisms that evolved from "scratch" in totally separate environments being chemically compatible enough to even feed on each other much less infect is remote in the extreme.

According to currently accepted theory:
Earth microbial life developed in lock step with higher forms (actually higher forms evolved from single cells). For a organism to be able to take advantage of the nutrients and components of "food" there have to be molecules that the bodies' enzymes and other molecular machinery can recognize and manipulate. Even something as simple as the DNA helix structure of an alien lifeform turning in the opposite direction for example would make it totally incompatible with Earth animal life. Your body couldn't process it. You would get more nutrients from eating sand than you would from an alien hamburger. They'd be much more likely to be toxic if not-quite-close-enough alien molecules gummed up your digestive enzymes or blocked up critical chemical pathways.

For things like viruses that literally take over a cell's genetic programming, it has to be even more precise. The viral chemical signatures and DNA/RNA coding has to be an exact match for the target, otherwise it won't function. That is why viruses are host specific and rarely jump from say, rats and cats to humans etc except as carriers and vectors.

You still would not want to contaminate Earth with alien life, even if it were "benign". It might be able to out-compete for resources with native life, and there is the risk of it having negative side effects, such as native life starving to death by unwittingly poisoning themselves the same way seabirds are now dying because they eat floating plastic instead of real food because they can't tell the difference between the two.


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Post Re: Viral resistance   Posted on: Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:16 am
Thank you JamesG. I appreciate your input a great deal.

This is exactly what I had in mind when I asked the question: How can we immunize ourselves and, lets say, live on an alien planet?

Since the treatment of said virus has to be very specific, does that mean we should get a vaccine for every threatening viral element, and is this feasible (lets say our aliens are pretty bright). Can our bodies go through such a thorough vaccination/immunization system?

All kinds of input are input are appreciated. Thank you!

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Post Re: Viral resistance   Posted on: Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:46 pm
Vaccines work with your natural immune system to defeat a virus. An alien virus isn't likely to even trigger your body's immune system. It would likely pass thru your body without finding a suitable host. A bacterial type of life might take up residence inside a your body if it found a suitable environment somewhere, but again, its biochemistry isn't likely compatible enough actually attack your cells. Its only via secondary effects like toxic waste products or it getting in the way of normal body functions that disease would manifest.

We are going to run into this problem of "alien" microflora long before we meet any ETs. Bacteria and other microorganisms are already adapting to our space environments aboard space stations and space craft. Once we get into the higher radiation of interplanetary space, its going to make mutations and space hardened microbes... interesting. We don't want to let them get back to Earth. So decontamination and quarantining is going to be a challenge.

What would be really dangerous would be fungus or something much more advanced than we've seen like the creature from the movie "The Thing". Something aggressive that can decompose just about anything and rebuild it to what it can use.


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Post Re: Viral resistance   Posted on: Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:13 pm
Quote:
Even something as simple as the DNA helix structure of an alien lifeform turning in the opposite direction for example would make it totally incompatible with Earth animal life. Your body couldn't process it. You would get more nutrients from eating sand than you would from an alien hamburger. They'd be much more likely to be toxic if not-quite-close-enough alien molecules gummed up your digestive enzymes or blocked up critical chemical pathways.

Not exactly... the carbohydrates and fats could still be the same as ours, in which case we would be able to gain energy. Besides, even if we can't gain energy from them, it could be the ideal dieting method. :) I know, chirality and all that, but there's a 50% chance at least we could eat it - if panspermia is correct, a significantly greater chance...


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