Monday, June 21, 2010



Scooped up by a Satellite sent into space for the purpose of bringing samples of microscopic life back to earth, the Andromeda Strain (1977) of virus is incredibly robust, and able to exist even in the vacuum of space. Once on earth, it instantly kills (almost) every human and vulture it comes into contact with.

The Andromeda Strain. Another bird flu?

This alien virus is truly alien in that it seems to reproduce more like a bacteria than like a virus. As you will recall from my Mutation, Part 1 entry, viruses use the resources of a host cell to replicate. Earthly viruses cannot reproduce without a cell to infect. Not so for the the Andromeda Strain.

Our nation's best scientists have found this microbe to be capable of using energy to undergo a mitosis-like process in which the virus makes copies of itself(1). In the words of one researcher regarding this process, “It’s like a nuclear reactor!” The logic and meaning of this statement is somewhat fuzzy in the film. As a matter of fact, scientists in the film state that a nuclear explosion would release so much energy that the virus could be induced to replicate at astronomical rates. Therefore the nuclear option as a method of viral containment is out. It is also a crystalline form of life, something that we don’t see here on good ol’ earth every day. (Or any day, really.)

This crystalline virus will use "energy" and nothing else...

... to divide and reproduce in mitosis-like fashion.


This virus is inhaled, reacts with blood in the lungs, and initiates virtually instantaneous clotting that emanates from the pulmonary circulation through the trunk, and out to the extremities.

High-tech seventies style imaging of spontaneous coagulation of blood in a rhesus monkey exposed to the virus.

Of course, instantaneous death is the result with primary Andromeda infection. An incision of the skin of an infected (dead) person releases a dusty stream of sand-like blood from the wound site.

Clotting and dehydration!


Is there no cure, vaccine, or other prophylactic measure that can help us control the spread of this airborne threat to human and vulture-kind(2)? Well, it turns out that hyperventilation may produce changes in blood acidity, making it more alkaline, and discouraging Andromeda viral infection. The microbe grows well in the presence of normal levels of blood carbon dioxide(3), less well with oxygen(4). The stuff can thrive in a vacuum, but mess with a simple thing like blood ph and it falls apart.

Signs and symptoms of primary Andromeda Strain infection: shortness of breath, instantaneous death.

Here's a young woman dead of Andromeda Strain infection. Needless to say, she got more camera time than any other casualty of the virus in this film.

Treatment: Increase blood acid or alkaline levels, through vigorous anaerobic exercise (increases acidity) or hyperventilation (increases alkaline). Additional treatment may be attempted through hyperventilation, or drinking of Sterno. Yes, Sterno or other forms of denatured alcohol. Nuclear devices are contraindicated.

Drink this at your next fondue party to treat your Andromeda Strain infection.

1. During mitosis a cell will make copies of its DNA, organize matching sets of DNA/genetic material at either end of the cell, and then the cell splits into two, making a perfect copy of itself.
2. It kills beagles, monkeys, and rats, too!
3. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the blood (which can happen with vigorous exercise) increased blood acidity, for you trivia buffs.
4. As your breathing rate increases with vigorous exercise, you blow off carbon dioxide, and end up with more oxygen in the bloodstream which makes blood more alkaline.


  1. I love your comment that the young dead woman got more camera time than the other victims. I think it's because the filmmakers really wanted us to grieve for such a young life cut short, don't you? It's not like in Alien, where at the end Sigorney Weaver does a long, slow strip down to her panties. Now THAT was exploitation.

  2. Yes, I'm sure it was meant as a poignant moment, particularly since her coloring is so lifelike. It really gets you choked up, doesn't it? The Sigorney issue does bring up the question of WHAT, exactly one would wear by oneself in a space capsule. I mean there's no one around for millions of miles. I might brush my teeth, but mascara is out. Maybe we should be surprised that she left her panties on.