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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe how viruses were first discovered and how they are detected
  • Explain the detailed steps of viral replication
  • Describe how vaccines are used in prevention and treatment of viral diseases
In A, an electron micrograph shows the tobacco mosaic virus, which is shaped like a long, thin rectangle. Photo B shows an orchid leaf in varying states of decay. Initial symptoms are yellow and brown spots. Eventually, the entire leaf turns yellow with brown blotches, then completely brown.
(a) The tobacco mosaic virus, seen by transmission electron microscopy, was the first virus to be discovered. (b) The leaves of an infected plant are shown. (credit a: scale-bar data from Matt Russell; credit b: modification of work by USDA, Department of Plant Pathology Archive, North Carolina State University)

No one knows exactly when viruses emerged or from where they came, since viruses do not leave historical footprints such as fossils. Modern viruses are thought to be a mosaic of bits and pieces of nucleic acids picked up from various sources along their respective evolutionary paths. Viruses are acellular    , parasitic entities that are not classified within any domain because they are not considered alive. They have no plasma membrane, internal organelles, or metabolic processes, and they do not divide. Instead, they infect a host cell and use the host’s replication processes to produce progeny virus particles. Viruses infect all forms of organisms including bacteria, archaea, fungi, plants, and animals. Living things grow, metabolize, and reproduce. Viruses replicate, but to do so, they are entirely dependent on their host cells. They do not metabolize or grow, but are assembled in their mature form.

Viruses are diverse. They vary in their structure, their replication methods, and in their target hosts or even host cells. While most biological diversity can be understood through evolutionary history, such as how species have adapted to conditions and environments, much about virus origins and evolution remains unknown.

How viruses replicate

Viruses were first discovered after the development of a porcelain filter, called the Chamberland-Pasteur filter, which could remove all bacteria visible under the microscope from any liquid sample. In 1886, Adolph Meyer demonstrated that a disease of tobacco plants, tobacco mosaic disease, could be transferred from a diseased plant to a healthy one through liquid plant extracts. In 1892, Dmitri Ivanowski showed that this disease could be transmitted in this way even after the Chamberland-Pasteur filter had removed all viable bacteria from the extract. Still, it was many years before it was proven that these “filterable” infectious agents were not simply very small bacteria but were a new type of tiny, disease-causing particle.

Virions, single virus particles, are very small, about 20–250 nanometers (1 nanometer = 1/1,000,000 mm). These individual virus particles are the infectious form of a virus outside the host cell. Unlike bacteria (which are about 100 times larger), we cannot see viruses with a light microscope, with the exception of some large virions of the poxvirus family ( [link] ).

Relative sizes on a logarithmic scale, from 0.1 nm to 1 m, are shown. Objects are shown from smallest to largest. The smallest object shown, an atom, is about .1 nm in size. A C60 molecule, or buckyball, is 1 nm. The next largest objects shown are lipids and proteins; these molecules are between 1 and 10 nm. The influenza virus is about 100 nm. Bacteria and mitochondria are about 1 µm. Human red blood cells are about 7 µm. Plant and animal cells are both between 10 and 100 µm. Pollen from a morning glory flower and a human egg are between 100 µm and 1 mm. A frog egg is about 1 mm.
The size of a virus is very small relative to the size of cells and organelles.

It was not until the development of the electron microscope in the 1940s that scientists got their first good view of the structure of the tobacco mosaic virus ( [link] ) and others. The surface structure of virions can be observed by both scanning and transmission electron microscopy, whereas the internal structures of the virus can only be observed in images from a transmission electron microscope ( [link] ).

Questions & Answers

explain why a fresh water fish excrete ammonia
Leonard Reply
plz answer my question
What are eukaryotic cells?
Nwosueke Reply
where does the cell get energy for active transport processes?
A'Kaysion Reply
what is synapsis
Adepoju Reply
how many turns are required to make a molecule of sucrose in Calvin cycle
Amina Reply
why Calvin cycle occurs in stroma
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide?
Maryam Reply
why do humans enhale oxygen and exhale carbondioxide? For the purpose of breaking down the food
what is allele
uzoka Reply
process of protein synthesis
what is cell
Zulf Reply
a cell is a smallest basic, structural and functional unit of life that is capable of self replication
why does a fresh water fish excrete ammonia
plz answer my question
Ammonia is a toxic colorless gas and when its inside the fish biological system is converted to a less toxic compound then excreted in the form of urea. However too much ammonia will kill the fish " Ammonia Poisoning " which is a very common disease among fish.
what is cytoplasm
uzoka Reply
cytoplasm is fluid of cell.
how many major types of Cloning
Saeed Reply
comparative anatomy of gymnosperms?
Meenakshi Reply
anatomy of gymnosperms
how genes are regulated
Ainjue Reply
what is storage of glycogen
Student Reply
glycogen is a protein content
how many times breathing a day normally does a person have
Vernalyn Reply
on average 18000 times a day when resting.

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11487/1.9
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