Scientists Discover Virus That Makes People More Stupid [Study]

Research scientists have discovered a throat virus that allegedly could have a negative affect on brain function in large segments of the population.

Chlorovirus ATCV-1, the virus in question, is normally found in freshwater algae. If validated, the findings suggest that presumed innocuous microorganisms in the body could interact with genes and, in this instance, make us less intelligent.

The revelation was apparently accidental, London’s The Independent explained.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska stumbled upon the discovery when they were undertaking an unrelated study into throat microbes. Surprisingly, the researchers found DNA in the throats of healthy individuals that matched the DNA of a virus known to infect green algae.

Forty adult study participants out of 92 total tested positive for the virus via throat swabs, and those affected also performed worse in certain intelligence and attention tests.

Researchers ran a follow-up test with mice exposed to chlorovirus ATCV-1, with the rodents also underperforming on cognitive tests. “In the mice, the virus broke through the blood/brain barrier and changed the activity of some genes in the brain. The genes affect neurotransmitters, including dopamine, as well as inflammation,” Healthline reported.

The findings were published late last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The presence of ATCV-1 DNA was not associated with demographic variables but was associated with a modest but statistically significant decrease in the performance on cognitive assessments of visual processing and visual motor speed.”

According to study co-author, Dr. James Van Etten, “There’s more and more studies showing that microorganisms in your body have a bigger influence than anything anyone would have predicted, and this could be something along those lines.”

Unlike Ebola or influenza, colleague Dr. Robert Yolken asserted, “‘This is kind of the other end of the spectrum. These are agents that we carry around for a long time and that may have subtle effects on our cognition and behavior.”

Yolken added that “The thing that’s different about what we found is that chlorovirus ATCV-1 is something that we wouldn’t have suspected would actually have any effect on humans or animals. It points us in a direction of looking to see if we can improve people’s cognition, their behavior, by changing the composition of their microbiome [the balance of bacteria and viruses in the body].”

Chlorovirus ATCV-1 doesn’t restrict itself to swimmers, which apparently rules out a direct link to the algae itself. As such, scientists are apparently still trying to identify the specific source of the infection that many people may have been carrying in their bodies undetected for a long time. The human body contains millions of viruses, most of which are considered harmless.

“Chloroviruses are worldwide. They’re very common among inland bodies of fresh water such as lakes and ponds. But I don’t know of many examples of viruses jumping from one kingdom to another. If this turns out to be true, this is quite rare and a total surprise,” noted Dr. Van Etten.

Do you think a stupid virus could possibly explain America’s declining SAT scores?

[image via Shutterstock]