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In S3E09 of ST:TNG The Vengeance Factor, Riker is doing his thing and finds himself romantically involved with Yuta, who we later find out is from the supposedly extinct clan Trelesta. She is travelling with an Acamarian delegation as a servant to the Marouk, with the alternate agenda of killing the last of the Lornak clan which was responsible for the massacre of her clan.

Yuta had been genetically altered to not only live a very long life with very slow aging, but was also given a genetically engineered virus which, while completely harmless to others, was lethal to any who had the genetic makeup of the Lornak clan. The virus could be passed from Yuta to a Lornak by a mere touch, causing their death within seconds.

My question is, if Riker was romantically involved with Yuta, could he have become a carrier of the virus? While he himself would not have been harmed by the virus, could he have passed it along to any of the Lornak clan and caused a death inadvertently? Could anyone having come in contact with Yuta become a carrier?

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  • How can anyone know? Maybe, human immune system can kick butts of the virus...
    – user931
    Dec 8, 2015 at 1:02
  • @SS-3.1415926535897932384626433 - As kick butt as the human body's immune system is, people can be carriers of viruses for many years without ill effect to themselves, and yet be able to pass this along to others. It seems logical it could have happened. Dec 8, 2015 at 14:34
  • I never said humans can't carry viruses without getting affected.
    – user931
    Dec 8, 2015 at 14:39

2 Answers 2

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This isn't addressed on screen. Firing up the speculatron:

It wouldn't make sense. The virus was engineered to eliminate one specific clan. If the engineers thought they could accomplish this goal by disseminating the virus to the wider population, creating Yuta wouldn't have been useful. The virus could have made its way throughout the entire species, unnoticed until someone put together that an entire clan had heart attacks within a relatively short time.

It is reasonable to assume that there was some drawback to this approach. Adding this capability to the virus may have been beyond the engineers' means. They may have worried that, released into the general public, the virus may have mutated into something more widely harmful, bringing it to the attention of the medical community at large. Yuta may have been engineered to keep the virus to its original genetic composition, passing it mainly to its targets where it would do its job and not be transmitted any further.

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    I was hoping someone with an available speculatatron would post up ... It isn't every day you get to see one in operation. Dec 8, 2015 at 1:05
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Assuming TNG's various humanoids are roughly analogous to humans, the only way Yuta's viruses could kill at anywhere near the time scales shown in "The Vengeance Factor" is if they act on the victim as an allergen, kicking the immune system into overdrive and tricking the victim's body into killing itself. Since Yuta could kill by touch, she must have been shedding the virus constantly, meaning that Riker could carry a significant amount of it on his skin if he touched her. That makes him a carrier of sorts, but whether he could deliver the viruses successfully to a victim is another matter.

Skin keeps out viruses generally, and the outer skin cells are dead so they can't be co-opted to produce more viruses. So if Riker got Yuta's virus particles on his skin, he'd be limited to that amount and should not produce any more. And if he touched someone, the viruses would rub off onto them, but they generally should stay outside the body. Yuta, killing machine that she was, would have been engineered to have some kind of transdermal delivery system so that her touch would get the viral payload past the dead skin barrier. It could be a solvent like DMSO or her fingertips could have serrated edges to abrade the skin and let her nasty little friends in.

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  • My understanding of the episode is that she could transmit transdemally or by touch. Wasn't this the reason Riker told her not to go near the Lornak and ended up destroying her with his phaser when she persisted. Dec 12, 2015 at 2:35

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