Understanding the Structure of a Virus
If you have ever heard about or seen a virus, then you probably know that it is little more than a virus. The rest of the world calls viruses “viruses” but in the United States, we use the term “virus” to refer to any virus that causes disease. A virus can jump from one animal to another or it can enter and live within a human’s body. The term “virus” describes any kind of virus that is infecting living cells, although most viruses are smaller than bacteria.
Viruses are really the smallest of the all bacteria. They’re sometimes said to be as small as 500 billion (500 trillion) tiny organisms, which would make them the largest single bacteria in the entire world. They’re unique in that they’re only alive and capable of multiplying inside of their host cells (other living things). In order for a virus to reproduce, it must first break down into its constituent parts, reproduce itself through the help of some sort of mechanism, and then return to its host cell to replicate again.
Each individual virus may be able to reproduce on its own through its own proteins. But viruses that lack the protein to move on to their next stage are usually unable to reproduce. There are two different types of proteins that a virus needs in order to reproduce: proteins that produce a viral protein and proteins that induce an immune system response in the body to fight off the virus. These are collectively referred to as “protein viruses”.
Most viruses only need to have their own protein viruses to infect a host. Those with minor cellular immunity can’t survive outside of their host range. Those with host range can survive in other host range, but may have trouble entering and living within the host cell types that they’re trying to infect. The more complex a virus is, the more protein it typically requires to remain within its host cell types to reproduce.
The type of virus and its ability to infect a variety of living organisms are known as their hosts. Hosts are organisms that the virus gains access to for reproduction. The most commonly known viruses that infect living organisms are ones that belong to the herpes family. Herpes is the most common virus in the world, and it infects about 1% of the population at least once. There are a number of other less common, but also significant viruses.
Every virus needs to gain access to one piece of genetic material from living cells in order to reproduce. Once a virus has obtained this piece of genetic material, it must make its way into the host cell where it will continue to reproduce until either it is killed by the immune system or it breaks down before it can do any damage. Once a virus has reached its destination, it is either shut off or passed out of the body. It may leave a copy in the host’s cellular structures though, which is why it is so important to know exactly what you are getting into before you engage in sexual activity.