It turns out stupidity might be contagious.
Scientists discovered what is now being called a “stupidity” virus on accident, while conducting research for an unrelated study on microbes in the human throat. Throat swabs from the 92 test subjects showed unexpected traces of a virus called ATCV-1 in their DNA.
ATCV-1 is primarily known for its penchant to attack green algae in lakes and rivers, but it can also infect human brains. Once contracted, the virus impairs cognitive activity, learning and memory. In short, if you have the virus, you’re bound to be a bit stupider.
MSN reports that this marks the first time the virus has been observed in humans. Nearly 44 percent of the 92 healthy adults tested had traces of ATCV-1 in their DNA.
Study participants with ATCV-1 performed about 10 percent worse on cognitive tests. Researchers also observed that those infected had significantly shorter attention spans and a “decrease in … visual processing and visual motor speed.”
While the virus is found primarily in freshwater environments, there’s no indication that it affects only those who live or work near lakes and rivers.
“These are agents that we carry around for a long time and that may have subtle effects on our cognition and behavior,” said Robert Yolken, a virologist at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Maryland who led the study. “We’re really just starting to find out what some of these agents that we’re carrying around might actually do.”