A virus is a small, infectious parasite that recreates itself inside the cells of living beings. Viruses affect all kinds of living creatures from humans to animals to plants to microorganisms. When a living host is infected by a virus, it is forced to replicate its innumerable copies at a staggering rate.
Mostly, viruses consist of either RNA or DNA, as their genetic structure. The virus particle is known as virion that primarily contains the nuclei acid (single or double-stranded), and an outer wall of protein. The least complex virus only has an RNA or DNA to encode the shell of proteins. But the most complicated virus may be able to encode about 100 to 200 proteins.
The scientific study of viruses started at the end of the 19th century. In 1892, Dmitry Ivanovsky used a filter that contained small pores, powerful enough to hold bacteria. Ivanovsky used this kind of filter to examine a diseased tobacco plant. The infectious substance rooted in the plant was named as a “virus”. And this discovery was the start of virology.
Typically, the term “viruses” is used along with bacteria. To some, they may appear the same but the two are poles apart. As compared to bacteria, viruses are tiny. In fact, studies show that the largest virus is smaller than the smallest bacterium. Bacteria can exist all by themselves. On the other hand, viruses need a host to replicate themselves – They can’t survive all alone.
Unlike bacteria, viruses can cause illnesses and they are also quite certain about the cells they want to eliminate. For instance, most viruses attack cells present in the liver, respiratory system, or blood. Sometimes, viruses target bacteria and kill it.
Some of the diseases caused by viruses are contagious in nature such as the flu, the common cold, HIV, and herpes. Other types of viral diseases are caused by other ways such as the bite of an insect. Respiratory viral diseases are cured on their own. However, you can consider over-the-counter medications such as cough syrups, pain relievers, nasal decongestants etc.
Viruses may also cause gastrointestinal diseases including abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Gastrointestinal viral diseases resolve by themselves within a couple of days. Meanwhile, it is advised to drink plenty of fluids to compensate what is lost from diarrhea and vomiting.
Exanthematous viruses result in skin rashes such as measles, rubella, and chickenpox. To cure these diseases, fever-minimizing medications should be used. For chickenpox, antiviral drugs like acyclovir can be given.
About the Author:
Amita Vadlamudi, whose professional resume can be found at https://www.f6s.com/amitavadlamudi is a former Computer Engineer. Ms. Vadlamudi’s current interests are writing about science and technology. Some of her other articles can be found on the following web sites: