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A Virus (From the Latin Virus Meaning Toxin or Poison)

A Virus (From the Latin Virus Meaning Toxin or Poison)

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Published by: v111-7 on Dec 09, 2009
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(from the Latin
) is an infectious agenttoo small to be seen directly with alight microscope. They are not made of cells and can only replicate inside the cells of another organism (the viruses' host). Viruses infect all types of organisms, from animals  and  plantsto bacteria andarchaea.
Since the initial discovery of tobacco mosaic virusbyMartinus Beijerinck  in 1898,
about 5,000 of them have been described in detail,
althoughthere are millions of different types of viruses.
Viruses are found in almost everyecosystemonEarth and these minute structures are the most abundant type of biological entity.
The studyof viruses is known asvirology,a sub-specialty of microbiology. Viruses consist of two or three parts: all viruses havegenesmade from either DNA or RNA, long moleculesthat carry genetic information; all have a proteincoat that protects these genes; and some have anenvelopeof fat that surrounds them when they are outside a cell. Viruses varyfrom simplehelicalandicosahedralshapes, to more complex structures. Most viruses are about one hundred times smaller than an average bacterium. The origins of viruses in theevolutionaryhistory of lifeare unclear: some may haveevolved from plasmids —pieces of DNA that can move between cells—while others may have evolved from bacteria. In evolution, viruses are animportant means of horizontal gene transfer ,which increases genetic diversity.
Viruses spread in many ways; plant viruses are often transmitted from plant to plant by insectsthat feed onsap, such asaphids, while animal viruses can be carried by  blood-sucking insects. These disease-bearing organisms are known asvectors. Influenza virusesare spread by coughing and sneezing. Thenorovirusandrotaviruses, common causes of viralgastroenteritis,are transmitted by thefaecal-oral routeand are passed from person to person by contact, entering the body in food or water.HIVis one of several viruses transmitted throughsexual contact or by exposure to infected blood.Viral infections in animals provoke an immune response that usually eliminates the infectingvirus. These immune responses can also be produced by vaccines, which giveimmunityto specific viral infections. However, some viruses including HIV and those causingviral hepatitis evade these immune responses and cause chronicinfections. Microorganisms also have defences against viral infection, such as restriction modification systems. Antibioticshave no effect on viruses, but a fewantiviral 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 virusreprograms its host's cells to make new viruses and almost all the proteins used in this processare normal parts of the body, with only a few viral proteins.
The word is from theLatin 
referring to poisonand other noxious substances, first used inEnglish in 1392.
, from Latin
(poisonous), dates to 1400.
A meaning of "agent that causes infectious disease" is first recorded in 1728,
before the discovery of viruses byDmitry Ivanovskyin 1892. The adjective
dates to 1948.
 The term
is also usedto refer to a single infective viral particle. The pluralis "viruses".
Martinus Beijerinck  in his laboratory in 1921In 1884, the Frenchmicrobiologist Charles Chamberland invented a filter (known today as the Chamberland filter or Chamberland-Pasteur filter) with pores smaller than bacteria. Thus, hecould pass a solution containing bacteria through the filter and completely remove them from thesolution.
 In 1892 the Russian biologistDmitry Ivanovskyused this filter to study what is now known astobacco mosaic virus. His experiments showed that the crushed leaf extracts frominfected tobacco plants are still infectious after filtration. Ivanovsky suggested the infectionmight be caused by a toxin produced by bacteria, but did not pursue the idea.
At the time itwas thought that all infectious agents could be retained by filters and grown on a nutrientmedium—this was part of thegerm theoryof disease.
In 1898 the Dutch microbiologistMartinus Beijerinck  repeated the experiments and became convinced that this was a new form of infectious agent.
He went on to observe that the agent multiplied only in dividing cells, but ashis 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
Beijerinck maintained thatviruses were liquid in nature, a theory later discredited by Wendell Stanley,who proved they were particulate.
In the same year, 1899, Friedrich Loeffler and Frosch passed the agent of  foot-and-mouth disease(aphthovirus) through a similar filter and ruled out the possibility of a toxin because of the high dilution; they concluded that the agent could replicate.
In the early 20th century, the English bacteriologist Frederick Twortdiscovered the viruses that infect bacteria, which are now called  bacteriophages,
and the French-Canadian microbiologistFélix d'Herelledescribed viruses that, when added to bacteria onagar , would produce areas of  dead bacteria. He accurately diluted a suspension of these viruses and discovered that the highestdilutions, 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 virusesin the suspension.
By the end of the nineteenth century, viruses were defined in terms of their infectivity,filterability, and their requirement for living hosts. Viruses had been grown only in plants andanimals. In 1906, Harrison invented a method for growingtissue inlymph,and, in 1913, E. Steinhardt, C. Israeli, and R. A. Lambert used this method to growvaccinia virus in fragments of  guinea pig corneal tissue.
In 1928, H. B. Maitland and M. C. Maitland grew vaccinia virus insuspensions of minced hens' kidneys. Their method was not widely adopted until the 1950s,when polioviruswas grown on a large scale for vaccine production.
Another breakthrough came in 1931, when the American pathologistErnest WilliamGoodpasture grew influenza and several other viruses in fertilised chickens' eggs.
In 1949John F. Enders,Thomas Weller , andFrederick Robbins grew polio virus in cultured human embryo cells, the first virus to be grown without using solid animal tissue or eggs. This work enabledJonas Salk  to make an effective polio vaccine.
With the invention of electron microscopyin 1931 by the German engineersErnst Ruskaand Max Knollcame the first images of viruses.
 In 1935 American biochemist and virologistWendell Stanley examined the tobacco mosaic virus and found it to be mostly made from protein.
A short time later, this virus was separated into protein and RNA parts.
Tobaccomosaic virus was the first one to be crystallised and whose structure could therefore be elucidated in detail. The firstX-ray diffractionpictures of the crystallised virus were obtained byBernal and Fankuchen in 1941. On the basis of her pictures,Rosalind Franklin discovered the full structure of the virus in 1955.
 In the same year,Heinz Fraenkel-ConratandRobley Williamsshowed that purified tobacco mosaic virus RNA and its coat protein can assemble bythemselves to form functional viruses, suggesting that this simple mechanism was probably howviruses assembled within their host cells.
The second half of the twentieth century was the golden age of virus discovery and most of the2,000 recognised species of animal, plant, and bacterial viruses were discovered during theseyears.
) werediscovered. In 1963, thehepatitis B virus was discovered byBaruch Blumberg,
 and in 1965,Howard Temindescribed the firstretrovirus. Reverse transcriptase, the key enzyme that retroviruses use to translate their RNA into DNA, was first described in 1970, independently byHoward Temin andDavid Baltimore.
 In 1983Luc Montagnier 's team at thePasteur Institutein France, first isolated the retrovirus now called HIV.
Viruses are found wherever there is life and have probably existed since living cells firstevolved.
The origin of viruses is unclear because they do not form fossils, somolecular techniques have been the most useful means of investigating how they arose.
These techniquesrely on the availability of ancient viral DNA or RNA, but, unfortunately, most of the viruses thathave been preserved and stored in laboratories are less than 90 years old.
There are threemain hypotheses that try to explain the origins of viruses:
Regressive hypothesisViruses may have once been small cells that parasitisedlarger cells. Over time, genes notrequired by their parasitism were lost. The bacteria rickettsiaandchlamydiaare living cells that, like viruses, can reproduce only inside host cells. They lend support to thishypothesis, as their dependence on parasitism is likely to have caused the loss of genes

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