What is a virus? A virus is simply a tiny submicroscopic, replicating infectious agent that duplicates within the living cell of an organisms. Viruses infect nearly all kinds of living organisms, from plants and animals to micro organisms, such as bacteria and Archaea. Some viruses cause a specific disease, such as AIDS; others are involved in cancer development; and still others are involved in the genetic engineering of other species (i.e., poliovirus, hepatitis virus, etc.). In all these cases, viruses are agents of infection with a single goal: to invade and colonize an individual’s body.


When did the first virus enter the living world? It is not known; records do not reflect a major entry until the industrial revolution. The earliest record of a virus entering an individual’s body may have come from a bee. Some viruses are transmitted through contact with bodily fluid or secretions (i.e., saliva, sweat, tears); others are airborne, passed on through infected clothing, or communicated through electronic or physical signals (such as through audio signals).

How does a virus infect living things? The virus enters an individual’s body by means of a host. Hosts are various types of bacteria, yeast, protozoa, and sometimes even mammals (i.e., monkeys, dogs, and birds). When a virus enters an animal, the animal contracts the virus directly; when a virus enters a human, the virus is ingested into the human’s body through the bite of another infected individual.

How do viruses affect their hosts? Infected organisms’ cells replicate rapidly in a specialized manner. When this happens, the duplicate copies of the virus grow into virus-like entities called trophozoites. The virus spreads from one trophoid cell to another, copying its viral characteristics. The virus’ reproductive cycle then begins.

What makes a virus ‘pox’? A common name for this process is retroviruses. In most cases, a retrovirus needs to be activated for it to replicate; the more activation there is, the greater the possibility for the virus to multiply and proliferate. Usually, activated retroviruses are responsible for causing a variety of common illnesses: colds and the common cold, pneumonia, lymphoma, and various forms of cancer.

Where can I find out more about viruses? You can search “virus” or “virus free” on Google; you’ll also find many websites that discuss these interesting microbes. If you have questions or problems relating to your health, you can call a doctor or research online to find answers. But don’t forget: all scientists still agree that viruses are among life’s great secrets.