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Fanghur

Does anyone know whether sulfur can 'kill' a virus, even in principle?

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One of the episodes of a TV show I like to watch (Fringe, season 2) was about a oil drilling operation resulting in the release of a deadly (to put it mildly) virus which one of the characters hypothesizes might have been responsible for the eradication of the mega-fauna of the last ice age. While the idea of accidentally uncovering a dormant virus buried deep underground does sound at least somewhat plausible in principle, I strongly suspect that the 'cure' the Fringe team come up with is just a load of nonsense, but I wouldn't mind a second opinion. The scientist discovers that what ultimately rid the world of this doomsday virus 75 000 yeast ago was the last supervolcanic eruption (Mount Toba, I believe), or more specifically its spreading of sulfuric ash all around the world. He discovered that sulfur somehow "kills" this virus.

 

Does anyone know if there is any plausibility whatsoever in this? I mean, if it were bacteria then it might be possible, given that the earliest antibiotics were sulfur-based (sulfonamides), but I don't see any way for the same to be said for a virus. I suspect that it's just one more thing the show pulled out of a hat, but like I said, I wouldn't mind a second opinion.

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I would say no- anti viral agents basically work to block the processes in cells responsible for replicating the viral genetic sequence. Protease inhibitors for example target special proteins that the virus makes the living cell produce. The purpose of these proteins is to cleave other proteins responsible for synthesis of new virions which spread the infection to other cells. As such the virus is stopped from reproduction.

 

I cannot see a means for sulphur to act in such ways other than maybe killing infected organisms- a virus cannot reproduce without a host.

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Perhaps the show's writers took liberties with sulfa drugs

antibacterial sulfonamides (sometimes called sulfa drugs or sulpha drugs) are synthetic antimicrobial agents that contain the sulfonamide group
source

 

Also, sulfur compounds, such as sulfur dioxide ("rotten eggs") and thiols/mercaptans (skunk spray, the odorants added to [otherwise odorless] natural gas, garlic, cabbage, etc), evoke alarm in humans, indicating that sulfur compounds can be harmful to us (and, if us, why not viruses too?).

 

I'm thinking that, with the shells of viruses being made of proteins, shouldn't there be lots of natural chemicals that would damage them?

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Liberties? It's techncial garbage. Don't try to find rationale for the silliness from television, technical accuracy is not considered in their effort. Sulfur compounds are not per se harmful any more than odor response is necessarily harm avoidance. Sulfur is an essential element to life and makes up a signficant part of our bodies. We eat garlic and cabbage and skunk oil has been used in perfume.

 

Studies, esp. with sludge amendments, showed that viruses (viral infectivity of a population) do not survive well in soil. That doesn't mean they all go away - the studies didnt have the sensitivity to confirm zero survival and infective doses can approximate a single virus.

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Well there are antiviral thiol-compounds, however IIRC they contain metals (which ultimately are responsible for inactivating viruses). The main point to remember is that viruses do not have a metabolism that could be disrupted, as such antiviral agents either harm the viral particles in some way (e.g. denaturation of the protein, oxidative damage etc.) or target infected host cells.

Outside of hosts viruses tend to be relatively fragile as the protein hull is basically the only thing that protects their genetic material.

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according to my thought sulfur is also a antivirus particale,,,it attacks your computer to clear virus in your computer,,,like"poisson kills poisson"...

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