- 6.0: Viruses
- Viruses are generally ultramicroscopic, typically from 20 nm to 900 nm in length. Some large viruses have been found. Virions are acellular and consist of a nucleic acid, DNA or RNA, but not both, surrounded by a protein capsid. There may also be a phospholipid membrane surrounding the capsid. Viruses are obligate intracellular parasites.
- 6.1: The Viral Life Cycle
- Many viruses target specific hosts or tissues. Some may have more than one host. Many viruses follow several stages to infect host cells. These stages include attachment, penetration, uncoating, biosynthesis, maturation, and release. Bacteriophages have a lytic or lysogenic cycle. The lytic cycle leads to the death of the host, whereas the lysogenic cycle leads to integration of phage into the host genome.
- 6.2: Isolation, Culture, and Identification of Viruses
- Viral cultivation requires the presence of some form of host cell (whole organism, embryo, or cell culture). Viruses can be isolated from samples by filtration. Viral filtrate is a rich source of released virions. Bacteriophages are detected by presence of clear plaques on bacterial lawn. Animal and plant viruses are detected by cytopathic effects, molecular techniques (PCR, RT-PCR), enzyme immunoassays, and serological assays (hemagglutination assay, hemagglutination inhibition assay).
- 6.3: Viroids, Virusoids, and Prions
- Other acellular agents such as viroids, virusoids, and prions also cause diseases. Viroids consist of small, naked ssRNAs that cause diseases in plants. Virusoids are ssRNAs that require other helper viruses to establish an infection. Prions are proteinaceous infectious particles that cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Prions are extremely resistant to chemicals, heat, and radiation.
Thumbnail: This colorized transmission electron microscopic (TEM) image revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. Image used with permission (Public Domain; Frederick A. Murphy via CDC).