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The Unity virus was a genetically engineered virus that was created by the Human "originators" creation, the Herans. The virus would infect Humans and rewrite the reproductive elements in the DNA and, in effect, turn ordinary humans into augmented Herans.
The virus appeared harmless at first glance but it contained a large amount of genetic code. Without knowledge of its properties, Starfleet medical personnel would have been blissfully unaware of the sinister nature of the virus. The virus worked, and behaved, as a standard viral infection while it subtlely worked changes into the body that would alter the offspring of the infected people. Once discovered, vaccines were produced to combat the virus which prevented it from spreading.
However, the virus was much more sinister as it was capable of laying dormant within the body for years. It was then capable of rewriting its genetic code and include a new DNA strand that both masked it from the bodies immune system as well as resisted the vaccination applied towards it. This effectively meant that the virus was capable of infecting planets even after steps were made to stop it.
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