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A biological weapon which drains moisture from flora and fauna?

  1. Aug 1, 2013 #1
    A biological weapon which "drains" moisture from flora and fauna?

    Hello everyone!

    I'm currently writing a novel in a setting where a biological weapon has devastated the world as we know it. Even though the story is not meant to be scientifically accurate and doesn't revolve around the "downfall of the old world" itself rather than the world that emerged from it ~ 200 yrs. later, I wanted the downfall to be at least a little plausible.

    My idea was basically some kind of... virus, maybe (?), which "drains" moisture from living beings (humans, animals, plants...), causing them to "wither and die". I also wanted the virus to remain on Earth, making it necessary to regularily use a vaccine in order to survive.
    So my question basically is - Is that idea completely far off or could such a virus actually be fabricated?

    I'd be very grateful for advice! :)

    Thanks in advance,

    Nicolas

    PS: Sorry for any grammar/spelling mistakes, I'm not a native speaker, and sorry if I accidently posted in the wrong forum!
     
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  3. Aug 1, 2013 #2

    Pythagorean

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    er... Ebola?
     
  4. Aug 1, 2013 #3

    Ryan_m_b

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    Welcome to the Forums :) More than the cause of death this bit here is your biggest problem in terms of realism. Pathogens are usually highly specific to their host, you're not going to get a disease that can infect multiple species (especially distantly related ones) because of how different those species are at a fundamental level.
     
  5. Aug 1, 2013 #4

    mfb

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    A chemical can be less specific. NaCl (table salt) is a simple way to drain water out of nearly anything, if water can get out and salt cannot get in. On the other hand, I don't see how you could "infect" everything with salt in such a way that it is impossible to clean up.
     
  6. Aug 1, 2013 #5

    bobze

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    I agree with Ryan. In terms of a realistic standpoint, you'd be better off with some kind of toxin or protein that does it. Like Ryan points out, pathogens are pretty host specific, however because of evolution (and that all modern life shares a common origin) there are some genes and their proteins which occur across life. For example, the sodium-potassium atp pump is found in virtually all animals. Ergo a toxin which affected this would affect virtually all animals. If you wanted something that affected plants and animals, then you want to search for genes common to all eukaryote. While these genes will have at least some subtle differences (because evolution is on going), they are common enough to make a plasuible sounding sci-fi doomsday type story. For example RNA polymerase II
     
  7. Aug 1, 2013 #6
    First of all thanks for all the quick responses! That really helped me a lot already. :)

    Okay, so what I basically learnt is that a virus is inplausible since it wouldn't be able to affect more than one species (Or at least not every living being).
    So if I'd go with the protein or toxin approach which affects a mutual gene (Like RNA Polymerase II, which you suggested) in eukaryotes, how could that be spread? Via "Gas"? Could it be transmitted?

    Sorry if some of these questions sound stupid from a scientist's point-of-view, my knowledge of biology is simply very poor. ;)

    Thanks,

    Nicolas
     
  8. Aug 1, 2013 #7
    Ebv

    I like the ebola suggestion. A mutated version of ebola virus has obtained an ability to infect and drain flood from every living animal. What can help your writing is that ebola was recently shown to be airborne. Therefore, your mutated strain not only attacks everything that has fluids in it, but also spreads faster than a stinky fart. Once all of the animals died, they released uncontrollable fungal infections that killed all of the plants....I guess without plans and animals the fungi also died...LOLz
     
  9. Aug 3, 2013 #8
    Any suggestions? :)
     
  10. Aug 3, 2013 #9

    HallsofIvy

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    Since a "stinky fart" is itself airborne, I have to object to your statement that because a virus is airborne, it will spread faster!
     
  11. Aug 3, 2013 #10

    Drakkith

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    How about a bacteria which has as a waste product the toxin that affects almost all living things?
     
  12. Aug 4, 2013 #11
    A bacteria... Alright. What I recently wrote though was a manufactured toxicant which affects the RNA-Polymerase II gene, like Bobze suggested. It "drains" all moisture and animals or human corpses emit a gas once they're dead which doesn't "disaggregate" (Sorry if it's bad wording) and thus spreads the toxicant.

    Does that make any sense?
     
  13. Aug 7, 2013 #12
    Virus has the problems of needing the cooperation of victim´s enzymes to replicate it. This is what makes it specific.

    How about a bacteria that does have the ability to live in the wild but which preferentially eats holes into cell membranes? This would destroy the ability of the victims to hold on to water...
     
  14. Aug 12, 2013 #13

    chemisttree

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    Prions that self-associate into soda straw structures that grow from within the cytoplasm and push out against the cell wall causing lysis or they could grow within the interstital space into the cell. Small fragments of the lengthening prion tubes dessicate outside the host become brittle, little bits break off and airborne whenever disturbed.

    Biological Ice-9.
     
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