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What exactly is a virus?

What exactly is a virus?

A virus is a microscopic parasite and needs a host to survive and reproduce. The Corona virus making world wide headlines is on top of mind now so here is some information about viruses in general.

When outside of its host a virus exists as a protein coat or capsid and is metabolically inactive. Once it enters a host the virus can insert its genetic material. Once infected, the host’s cell produces viral protein triggering an immune system response which takes over the cells usual function. Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t work to cure viral infections but many are preventable with vaccines.

Some viruses remain dormant for long periods with no obvious changes to the host cell. In this case the cell is in lysogenic phase. When the virus does become active it goes into lytic phase which means new viruses are formed and they self-assemble. They then burst out of the host cell killing it, and invade new host cells.

Besides Corona Virus there are many other well-known viruses. Some examples are:

Influenza

Shingles

Polio

Rabies

Ebola

AIDS

Viruses can be used in genetic engineering because they transfer genetic material between different species. Scientists say that viruses may also contribute to evolutionary change and is referenced as natural genetic engineering.

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Apr 6th 2020

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