As the Covid pandemic is wreaking havoc in all nooks of planet earth, several people are hoping to escape the blue planet to a distant alien world where there will be no threat from viruses. However, Professor Paul Davies, an astrobiologist, cosmologist, and director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University believes that viruses could be there in any alien planets that could be supporting microbial or complex life forms.
Microbes and viruses needed to support alien life
According to Davies, a wide range of microbes and several microscopic agents are needed to support life in other planets similar to earth, no matter whatever form it takes. The astrobiologist suggests that viruses may be also a part of this equation and if life exists somewhere else in this universe, the existence of viruses could not be ruled out.
"Viruses actually form part of the web of life. I would expect that if you've got microbial life on another planet, you're bound to have – if it's going to be sustainable and sustained – the full complexity and robustness that will go with being able to exchange genetic information," said Davies, The Guardian reports.
Davies also talked about several studies that suggested the possibility of a process in which genetic material from viruses has been incorporated into the genomes of humans and other animals by a process known as horizontal gene transfer.
Cellular life in other words and the possibility of horizontal gene transfer
According to Davies, the concept of horizontal gene transfer will be possible if cellular life exists somewhere else in the universe. The astrobiologist also ruled out the possibility of alien life being homogenous.
Davies also made it clear that alien life forms will not pose any threat to humanity.
"The dangerous viruses are those that are very closely adapted to their hosts. If there is a truly alien virus, then chances are it wouldn't be remotely dangerous," added Davies.
Davies added, "We hear about the microbiome inside us, and there's a planetary microbiome."