Using our white blood cells:
A clue comes from the amoeba Dictyostelium discoideum. It spends much of its life marauding alone, eating things. But, when food is scarce, it releases molecules that serve as a flocking signal to others of its kind; the amoebas merge, forming a superorganism of as many as a hundred thousand members. For this multicellular “slime mold” to be effective, almost all the amoebas must give up their ability to eat, lest they prey on one another. The few that retain it don’t eat for themselves; rather, they swallow up debris and dispose of it to protect the organism. The other amoebas, freed from the burdens of offense and defense, form a “fruiting body” that releases spores for reproduction. Although none of the individuals would survive on their own, the collective thrives…
TenOever’s team quickly discovered that sars-CoV-2 was uncannily good at disrupting cellular programming. A typical virus replaces less than one per cent of the software in the cells it infects. With sars-CoV-2, tenOever said, about sixty per cent of the RNA in an infected cell is of viral origin—“which is the highest I’ve ever seen. Polio comes close.” Among other things, the virus rewires the alarm system that cells use to warn others about infection. Normally, as part of what is known as the “innate” immune response—so called because it is genetically hardwired, and not tailored to a specific pathogen—a cell sends out two kinds of signals. One signal, carried by molecules called interferons, travels to neighboring cells, telling them to build defenses that slow viral spread. Another signal, transmitted through molecules called cytokines, gets a message to the circulatory system’s epithelial lining. The white blood cells summoned by this second signal don’t just eat invaders and infected cells; they also gather up their dismembered protein parts. Elsewhere in the immune system, these fragments are used to create virus-specific antibodies, as part of a sophisticated “adaptive” response that can take six or seven days to develop.James Somers, “How the coronavirus hacks the immune system” at New Yorker
Apparently, COVID-19 lures white blood cells into attacking en masse instead of selectively, which clogs everything up.
Nature is full of information and, while these viruses and cells don’t think, something in them does.
See also: While not dangerous, slime molds are interesting for this sort of thing.
Is an amoeba smarter than your computer? Hype aside, the microbe’s math skills ace the Traveling Salesman problem and may help with cybersecurity
In what ways are bacteria intelligent? As antibiotic resistance grows, researchers are discovering that these microbes are not just single, simple cells