Virus is a Latin word meaning poison or toxin. Viruses are the smallest infectious microorganisms and can infect animals and plants and even bacteria (Crosta, 2009). Their diameter is approximately 20-300 nm and in their genome they contain only one kind of nucleic acid (DNA or RNA). The genetic material is enclosed inside a capsid (protein coat). In some viruses the capsid in turn is surrounded by a lipid bilayer called the envelope (Mandal, 2013). A virus does not contain organelles or ribosomes and depends solely on a host cell for its replication. It uses the host cellular energy, biochemicals and processes for multiplication and survival (Hilleman, 2004). Based on whether a virus contains one or more DNA or RNA molecule(s), viruses are classified as DNA virus or RNA virus. They are divided in the following arbitrary groups: 1)
dsDNA such as adenoviruses, herpesviruses; poxviruses, etc. 2)
(+)ssDNA such as parvoviruses 3)
dsRNA such as reoviruses, birnaviruses 4)
(+)ssRNA such as picornaviruses, togaviruses, etc. 5)
(-)ssRNA such as orthomyxoviruses, rhabdoviruses, etc. 6)
(+)ssRNA with DNA intermediate in life-cycle such as retroviruses. 7)
dsDNA with RNA intermediate such as hepadnaviruses.( Koonin
, 2006) During replication all viruses need to penetrate the host cell then they carry out the replication process and then the new viruses leave the host cell to infect other healthy host cells of the body. However the detailed process for each of these three stages varies among the viruses and depends upon the nature of their genome (Boevink and Oparka, 2005).
: Schematic diagram showing replication in simplified form for each class of virus (Microbiology Bytes, 2004).