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Dumb and Dumber
Maybe these two were ATCV-1 positive?Motion Picture Corporation of America

Scientists discover virus that makes us stupid

The infection decreases spatial awareness and shortens attention span. Does this sound like you?

Worried that a series of weekends drowned in snakebite and cheap drugs is behind your seemingly irreversible decline into stupidity? You might want to get yourself tested for the ATCV-1 virus, a microorganism that scientists say can decrease intelligence levels.

While conducting research into throat microbes, researchers at the Johns Hopkins School in Baltimore and the University of Nebraska discovered that the virus – previously thought be be non-transferable to humans – can live in our throats and is "associated with a modest but measurable decrease in cognitive functioning". It's the first discovery of its kind that proves that microorganisms can affect our bodies negatively without causing noticeable damage. (Until you realise that you have no idea how to parallel park or do long divison, that is.) 

Using a sample of 92 people, the scientists discovered the virus in 44% of trialists. They asked tested the attention spans and cognitive abilities of the volunteers, and those without the virus scored better by an average of between seven and nine points. When mice were injected with the virus and put into a maze, the rodents carrying ATCV-1 were more confused and demonstrated an inability to recognise opportunity in the maze or pay attention to a new object. Total thickos, basically.

While this is an example of a virus affecting the human body negatively, the findings have huge implications for the future of using microorganisms to improve cognitive ability.

"This is a striking example showing that the 'innocuous' microorganisms we carry can affect behaviour and cognition," Dr Robert Yolken told International Business Times. "Many physiological differences between person A and person B are encoded in the set of genes each inherits from parents, yet some of these differences are fuelled by the various microorganisms we harbour and the way they interact with our genes."

The ATCV-1 virus is found in green algae, but nobody has figured out how it gets into our bodies yet. The scientists also say that further research is needed to establish whether the ATCV-1 virus exists in people outside of the Baltimore area.

So if you've spent another day misplacing your keys and bumping into walls, it might not be down to your habit of getting stoned and watching repeats on the sofa. You might just be infected with the ATCV-1 virus. Hey, at least now you can say that isn't actually your fault.