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Viral Tendencies

Oct 07, 20022 mins

Viruses that cripple computers and the viruses that afflict humans share more than just a name, according to a study titled “Virtual Virology” by Network Associates Inc. (NAI) and the London-based National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR).

Both medical and computer viruses comprise large strings of basic elements that together form a complex organism. Both are masters of disguise and use similar techniques to hide. And just like a computer virus, a medical virus travels around the globe from east to west. The study found that the human immune system and antivirus software even work in a similar way to fight viruses; both learn from previous infections about how to fight new ones.

While the similarities between the medical and computer viruses may be the most striking part of the study, NAI and the NIMR view the data as a starting point to improve the way both types of virus researchers work. For example, medical virus researchers have recognized criteria to place biological viruses in internationally accepted hazard groups, whereas antivirus companies have their own methods of categorizing the same viruses, adding unnecessary confusion to the situation. On the other hand, computer virus researchers collect virus information faster than medical researchers. Although a faster pace is endemic to the technology world, the medical world could attempt to emulate this pace and improve its research methods through computerization.

Now, if only computer viruses could be cured by a little chicken soup.