Does a common 'algae virus' found in humans really make them dumb?
- Virology researchers at John Hopkins accidentally discovered a virus that is commonly found in algae, ACTV-1, that was harbored in 43% of the healthy volunteers in their study.
- Subjects who carried the virus performed 10% worse on cognitive testing, with significant decreases in function in visual processing and visual motor speed.
- The reason that this has generated so much attention is because of concerns that small, unrecognized bacterial or viral infections harbored by humans may contribute to cognitive decline or stealth illness.
Remember all the "your cat is making you crazy stories?" Those reports were based on some evidence that a common parasitic infection, toxoplasmosis, acquired from contaminated cat litter or food, could increase the risk of mental illness in exposed individuals.
Now, a similar story is making headlines, but for an algae virus. As Forbes contributor F.D. Flam points out, the media was quick to pounce on this story despite the Hopkins study's rather limited sample size and the accidental nature of the discovery.
But it's important to note that the data is preliminary and the correlation between ACTV-1 and mental decline has not been tested in large, well-designed trials. The advent of a "stupidity virus" is an eye-catching proposition—but it's not backed up the data just yet..