Coronavirus and the Three C’s

A lot of people want to know more about the new coronavirus. But for me to write about it, it has to somehow tie in with cancer. And what about the other C’s?

Global travel has been a quasi-pandora’s jar that has been shattered, releasing infectious agents that ignore geo-political boundaries. The coronavirus is so named for having the appearance of crown-like spikes on its surface. Visit these websites (CDC and WHO) for reliable, interesting info on coronavirus in general.

I guess viruses are like cancer cells. They are not independent organisms, being unable to live on their own. They have to live inside another being. Viruses and cancers both have DNA or a genome. The DNA in both constantly mutates. This is why the flu vaccine has to be given every year. Finally, both viruses and cancer can be recognized by the immune system as invaders. This means that in theory vaccines can be developed.

The development of vaccines against viruses has been much more successful than for cancer, for several reasons. For one, viruses are clearly not human cells. Viruses are easily recognized as being foreign. The worst viruses are the ones that cause severe injury or toxicity to the infected host and/or are good at hiding from the immune system (or destroying it like with HIV). Cancer on the other hand is derived from normal human cells of the individual. It is less obvious that they are unwelcome guests. Since cancer cells are human cells, their DNA is much more complex than relatively primitive viruses.

Another and major difference between viruses and cancer is that viruses are contagious and cancer is not. Many people still believe that cancer can be transmitted from one person to another. Not true. Read “Be Careful! It’s Contagious”.

So what are the other C’s? My family suggested “C” for curiosity. Curiosity made Pandora open the jar, which lead to “C” for cancer. One of my daughters said curiosity will eventually CURE (the other “C”) cancer.

Electron micrograph of coronavirus virons (photo credit: CDC/Fred Murphy)

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