The little virus who got lost

by Isabel Murillo Cabeza

This is the story of a tiny little virus called “Viricus”. He lived with his best friend, “Batty”, who was a funny bat, and they loved flying together from dusk ‘til dawn. Every night they flew above a lovely market town. They enjoyed flying around looking at the humans below putting up the fruit stalls at the market for the day ahead. Batty loved fruit more than anything else in the whole world.
“What a fantastic fruity smell!”, said Batty.
“I love it too!!”, shouted Viricus as they spiralled down towards the cave where they lived, and the sun rose over the horizon.
Viricus lived with his family and friends. They were round and with soft spikes on their heads. One day another virus came to live with them, he was similar to them but there was something different. Viricus was worried as he could feel that something was wrong. He told Batty.
“Don’t you think our new neighbour is strange?”, whispered Viricus to Batty.
“Yes, there is something not quite right”, answered Batty.
“I think it is his spikes, they are different to mine”, said Viricus.
“Yes, you are right. The spikes are so sharp, and the colour is different”, agreed Batty. “Do you know him?”, asked Batty.
“No, he turned up yesterday. No one knows him. My family are a bit concerned about him as well”, whispered Viricus. “We call him Spiky”, said Viricus giggling.
The following day, when Viricus woke up, he was shocked. There was not just one Spiky but hundreds of them!
That night when flying around the fruit market, the group of spiky viruses looked very excited about something Viricus couldn’t understand. Suddenly, the spiky viruses jumped into the night and took Viricus with them, away from Batty. They landed inside something soft and wet. It was a kind of strange cave and Spiky and his friends pushed Viricus deep inside. Viricus moved to one side to let them pass. Poor
little Viricus was so scared! Suddenly a calm and friendly voice said, “Don’t worry, you are safe in Hannah’s mouth”.
“Hannah? A mouth? Who is Hannah?”, asked Viricus.
“Hannah is a sweet and kind human child”, said the voice.
“Human?! What do you mean?”, asked Viricus “Why am I inside a human? I only live inside bats”. Viricus was getting very anxious.
“Don’t worry. It is fine, I’ll help you”, said the friendly voice.
“Help me, how? And who are you by the way?”, asked Viricus. From the darkest part of the mouth, near to a tooth, a tall and skinny shiny creature came out.
“I am Lactobacillus, and you are...?”, asked the creature.
“Lactobacillus? What kind of virus are you?”, asked Viricus.
“Oh, no, I am not a virus. Yuk!”, said Lactobacillus, sticking out his tongue. The idea of being a virus was disgusting to him. “I am a bacterium”, he said, smiling proudly.
“A bacterium”, repeated Viricus. “Maybe you could explain to me why I am here”.
“I am not sure either”, answered Lactobacillus.” The last two nights we have had many viruses coming in, just like that spiky one down there”, he said while pointing at Spiky. “Similar to you, um, but different, I think”, he scratched his head, thinking.
“Yes, I know that he looks like me, but he is not like me”, said Viricus a bit offended, while straightening his posture, and stroking his spikes back. “We came together”, said Viricus before explaining in great detail about his life and what had happened to him that night.
“Oh, I am sorry that you are in trouble and away from your family. We must work together to take you back to Batty!”, said Lactobacillus very excited. Suddenly the whole ground and walls were shaking as if an earthquake had just begun.
“What? What was that?”, asked a very shocked Viricus.
“That is poor little Hannah sneezing and coughing. She has been like this since the first spiky virus arrived”, explained Lactobacillus. Gradually it was getting hotter.
“Oh, no! It is a viral infection! I knew it”, said a very worried Lactobacillus. “That is why I hate viruses, as soon as they come everything goes wrong.”
Viricus looked at him very sadly, with tearful eyes.
“Not ALL viruses, of course”, rephrased Lactobacillus. “Not YOU, obviously.”
Hearing those words made Viricus much happier.
“We need to do something to help Hannah”, they both said at once, which made them laugh.
“I must alert the cells of the immune system. I have to tell them that we are under a viral attack”, said Lactobacillus as he gave a parchment to a fluffy cell that was close to him.
“Dendriticus, you must take this note to the surveillance centre immediately”, he told the fluffy cell.
“Sure, no problem”, answered the fluffy cell, who left at the speed of light. Suddenly, another sneeze and some more coughing. Hannah’s mouth was getting as hot as a boiling summer day.
“Oh, no! Poor Hannah, and now she has a fever. I hope my friends will be quick”, prayed Lactobacillus.
A few minutes later, a very big cell wearing a uniform appeared.
“Good evening, Lactobacillus! I got your message and I came as soon I could” said the amicable and kind cell. “We know that we are under attack and we are trying to identify the cause of the problem.”
“Good evening, Detective White! What a relief to see you. This is Viricus, he has just arrived from outside and he has a very interesting story to tell you”, claimed Lactobacillus.
“Hi Viricus! I am Detective White, and I am in charge of protecting Hannah’s health. I lead a team of cells and together we patrol Hannah’s body day and night looking for microorganisms causing diseases. Our mission is to neutralise them, so Hannah can
stay healthy”, said the immune cell.
Viricus explained to Detective White what had happened to him and Spiky while the detective took notes.
“And ... you are saying that he is similar but also different to you?”, asked the detective.
“Yes, I know, so weird!”, exclaimed Viricus.
“No, not really. What happened is that Spiky was like you, but then he changed”, explained the detective. “He has mutated, so now he is what we call a “mutant”.
“A mutant?”, repeated Viricus, his eyes wide open with surprise.
“We must protect Hannah, we need a strategy to stop the viral infection”, continued the detective. He made a call, and in no time, a group of many different cells turned up. They spoke very fast, drew diagrams and suddenly all turned towards Viricus.
“Viricus, we need your help”, the detective said very seriously.
“Who? Me? What can I do? I am just a tiny little virus”, said Viricus.
“Yes, but you are also our last chance”, continued Detective White. “You need to get as close as you can to Spiky. Close enough to pull one of his spikes. When you’ve done that, bring it to me” instructed the detective.
“A spike? Are you mad?”, asked Viricus terrified. “That is painful, and he will notice”.
“We will create a distraction so you will be safe”, said the detective calmly.
As Viricus got close to Spiky and his friends, the immune system cells threw a smelly liquid at them. In the confusion that followed Viricus pulled out one of Spiky’s spikes without being noticed. And then he ran away as fast as he could.
Detective White was delighted and sent the spike to a central factory where they can produce an anti-spike weapon. “We call it “antibody” and it is very effective against viruses”, he explained.
Another day passed, the heat was unbearable and Hannah’s sneezing and coughing more frequent. Detective White and his team appeared with the antibody weapons, which were similar to bubble guns and contained a blue liquid.
The team set off to find Spiky and his friends. When they found them, they sprayed them with a blue, minty liquid, which contained thousands of Y-shaped anti-spikes.
These magic anti-spikes hit their targets and made them sticky and immobile. The antibodies were working and neutralising the viruses.
“Yes! It works!”, shouted the immune cells all at once.
“Hurrah! We have won! Well done!”, said Viricus and Lactobacillus, jumping up and down with joy.
“We are going to take them to jail”, explained the detective, “where they will be changed back into their harmless form and be released later. We could not have done it without you two.”
And now it was the immune cells that applauded Viricus and Lactobacillus.
Suddenly, another sneeze. This time Viricus was blown out of Hannah’s mouth inside a big air droplet, floating and spinning around in the air. Something soft stopped the droplet. It was Batty!
“Hi Viricus! I have been desperately looking for you everywhere”, said Batty.
“Batty!”, said Viricus, happily. “I am so glad to see you again! You are not going to believe my story. There was a bacterium called Lactobacillus, Detective White and ...”, continued Viricus as they flew together high into the most fantastic starry night they had ever seen.