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-suckinginsects.These disease-bearing organisms are known asvectors.Influenza virusesare spread by coughingand sneezing. Thenorovirusandrotaviruses, common causes of viralgastroenteritis,aretransmitted 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 contactor byexposure to infected blood.Viral infections in animals provoke an immune response that usually eliminates the infectingvirus. These immune responses can also be produced byvaccines, which giveimmunitytospecific viral infections. However, some viruses including HIV and those causingviral hepatitisevade these immune responses and causechronicinfections. Microorganisms also have defencesagainst viral infection, such asrestriction modification systems.Antibioticshave no effect onviruses, but a fewantiviral drugshave been developed. However, there are relatively fewantivirals 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.
In 1892 the Russian biologistDmitry Ivanovskyused this filter to study what is nowknown 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.
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 growingtissueinlymph,and, in 1913, E.Steinhardt, C. Israeli, and R. A. Lambert used this method to growvacciniavirus 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.
Tobaccomosaic virus was the first one to becrystallisedand whose structure could therefore beelucidated in detail. The firstX-ray diffractionpictures of the crystallised virus were obtained byBernal and Fankuchen in 1941. On the basis of her pictures,Rosalind Franklindiscovered thefull structure of the virus in 1955.
In the same year,Heinz Fraenkel-ConratandRobleyWilliamsshowed 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.
Regressive hypothesisViruses may have once been small cells that parasitisedlarger cells. Over time, genes notrequired by their parasitism were lost. The bacteriarickettsiaandchlamydiaare livingcells 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