Scientists in the United States have discovered a virus that infects people’s brains and makes them stupid.
According to research carried out at the Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska, the algae virus affected cognitive functions such as visual processing and spatial awareness.
Out of the 90 participants in the study, 40 tested positive for the carrying the virus.
The virus positive group had lower performance rates while being tested for visual processing speed and accuracy. They also obtained lower scores on attention measurement tests.
The scientists made the discovery accidently while they were carrying out an unrelated study into throat microbes.
The ATCV-1 virus infects freshwater green algae which is usually found in lakes and ponds.
The researchers proved that the microorganisms can trigger subtle physiological changes to the human body, without triggering a full-blown attack on the immune system.
“This is a striking example showing that the ‘innocuous’ microorganisms we carry can affect behaviour and cognition,” said Dr. Robert Yolken, a virologist who led the original study.
“Many physiological differences between person A and person B are encoded in the set of genes each inherits from parents, yet some of these differences are fuelled by the various microorganisms we harbour and the way they interact with our genes,” he added.
The human body contains trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi, most of which are harmless, but according to the findings of the research, some microorganisms can affect cognitive functions without damaging individuals’ health.
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