andy chuksA virus is a small infectious agent that can only replicate inside the cells of another organism. The word is from the Latin ''virus'' referring to poison and other noxious substances, first used in English in 1392. ''Virulent'', from Latin ''virulentus'' (poisonous), dates to 1400. A meaning of "agent that causes infectious disease" is first recorded in 1728, The term ''virion'' is also used to refer to a single infective viral particle. The plural is "viruses".
Viruses are too small to be seen directly with a light microscope. Viruses infect all types of organisms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea. although there are millions of different types. Viruses are found in almost every ecosystem on Earth and these minute structures are the most abundant type of biological entity. The study of viruses is known as virology, a sub-specialty of microbiology.
Unlike prions and viroids, viruses consist of two or three parts: all viruses have genes made from either DNA or RNA, long molecules that carry genetic information; all have a protein coat that protects these genes; and some have an envelope of fat that surrounds them when they are outside a cell. Viroids do not have a protein coat and prions contain no RNA or DNA. Viruses vary from simple helical and icosahedral shapes, to more complex structures. Most viruses are about one hundred times smaller than an average bacterium. The origins of viruses in the evolutionary history of life are unclear: some may have evolved from plasmidsâ€”pieces of DNA that can move between cellsâ€”while others may have evolved from bacteria. In evolution, viruses are an important means of horizontal gene transfer, which increases genetic diversity.
Viruses spread in many ways; plant viruses are often transmitted from plant to plant by insects that feed on sap, such as aphids, while animal viruses can be carried by blood-sucking insects. These disease-bearing organisms are known as vectors. Influenza viruses are spread by coughing and sneezing. The norovirus and rotaviruses, common causes of viral gastroenteritis, are transmitted by the faecal-oral route and are passed from person to person by contact, entering the body in food or water. HIV is one of several viruses transmitted through sexual contact or by exposure to infected blood.
Viral infections in animals provoke an immune response that usually eliminates the infecting virus. These immune responses can also be produced by vaccines, which give immunity to specific viral infections. However, some viruses including HIV and those causing viral hepatitis evade these immune responses and cause chronic infections. Microorganisms also have defences against viral infection, such as restriction modification systems.
Antibiotics have no effect on viruses, but a few antiviral drugs have been developed. However, there are relatively few antivirals because there are few targets for these drugs to interfere with. This is because a virus reprograms its host's cells to make new viruses and almost all the proteins used in this process are normal parts of the body, with only a few viral proteins.
Oigin and History of Virus
Louis Pasteur was unable to find a causative agent for rabies and speculated about a pathogen too small to be detected using a microscope. In 1884, the French microbiologist Charles Chamberland invented a filter (known today as the Chamberland filter or Chamberland-Pasteur filter) with pores smaller than bacteria. Thus, he could pass a solution containing bacteria through the filter and completely remove them from the solution. In 1892, the Russian biologist Dmitry Ivanovsky used this filter to study what is now known as the tobacco mosaic virus. His experiments showed that crushed leaf extracts from infected tobacco plants remain infectious after filtration. Ivanovsky suggested the infection might be caused by a toxin produced by bacteria, but did not pursue the idea. At the time it was thought that all infectious agents could be retained by filters and grown on a nutrient medium - this was part of the germ theory of disease. In 1898, the Dutch microbiologist Martinus Beijerinck repeated the experiments and became convinced that the filtered solution contained a new form of infectious agent. He observed that the agent multiplied only in cells that were dividing, but as his experiments did not show that it was made of particles, he called it a contagium vivum fluidum (soluble living germ) and re-introduced the word virus. Beijerinck maintained that viruses were liquid in nature, a theory later discredited by Wendell Stanley, who proved they were particulate. In the same year Friedrich Loeffler and Frosch passed the first animal virus - agent of foot-and-mouth disease (aphthovirus) - through a similar filter.
In the early 20th century, the English bacteriologist Frederick Twort discovered a group of viruses that infect bacteria, now called bacteriophages (or commonly phages), and the French-Canadian microbiologist Felix d'Herelle described viruses that, when added to bacteria on agar, would produce areas of dead bacteria. He accurately diluted a suspension of these viruses and discovered that the highest dilutions (lowest virus concentrations), rather than killing all the bacteria, formed discrete areas of dead organisms. Counting these areas and multiplying by the dilution factor allowed him to calculate the number of viruses in the original suspension. Phages were heralded as a potential treatment for diseases such as typhoid and cholera, but their promise was forgotten with the development of penicillin. The study of phages provided insights into the switching on and off of genes, and a useful mechanism for introducing foreign genes into bacteria.
By the end of the 19th century, viruses were defined in terms of their infectivity, their ability to be filtered, and their requirement for living hosts. Viruses had been grown only in plants and animals. In 1906, Ross Granville Harrison invented a method for growing tissue in lymph, and, in 1913, E. Steinhardt, C. Israeli, and R. A. Lambert used this method to grow vaccinia virus in fragments of guinea pig corneal tissue. In 1928, H. B. Maitland and M. C. Maitland grew vaccinia virus in suspensions of minced hens' kidneys. Their method was not widely adopted until the 1950s, when poliovirus was grown on a large scale for vaccine production.
Another breakthrough came in 1931, when the American pathologist Ernest William Goodpasture grew influenza and several other viruses in fertilized chickens' eggs. In 1949, John F. Enders, Thomas Weller, and Frederick Robbins grew polio virus in cultured human embryo cells, the first virus to be grown without using solid animal tissue or eggs. This work enabled Jonas Salk to make an effective polio vaccine.
The first images of viruses were obtained upon the invention of electron microscopy in 1931 by the German engineers Ernst Ruska and Max Knoll. In 1935, American biochemist and virologist Wendell Meredith Stanley examined the tobacco mosaic virus and found it was mostly made of protein. A short time later, this virus was separated into protein and RNA parts. The tobacco mosaic virus was the first to be crystallised and its structure could therefore be elucidated in detail. The first X-ray diffraction pictures of the crystallised virus were obtained by Bernal and Fankuchen in 1941. On the basis of her pictures, Rosalind Franklin discovered the full DNA structure of the virus in 1955. In the same year, Heinz Fraenkel-Conrat and Robley Williams showed that purified tobacco mosaic virus RNA and its coat protein can assemble by themselves to form functional viruses, suggesting that this simple mechanism was probably the means through which viruses were created within their host cells.
The second half of the 20th century was the golden age of virus discovery and most of the 2,000 recognised species of animal, plant, and bacterial viruses were discovered during these years. In 1957, equine arterivirus and the cause of Bovine virus diarrhea (a pestivirus) were discovered. In 1963, the hepatitis B virus was discovered by Baruch Blumberg, and in 1965, Howard Temin described the first retrovirus. Reverse transcriptase, the key enzyme that retroviruses use to translate their RNA into DNA, was first described in 1970, independently by Howard Martin Temin and David Baltimore. In 1983 Luc Montagnier's team at the Pasteur Institute in France, first isolated the retrovirus now called HIV.