A. Viruses are a unique group of biological entities

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A. Viruses are a unique group of biological entities

1. They are not capable of surviving without a host cell (lack metabolic machinery)

2. They do, however, contain all the information necessary to direct metabolic processes

3. They are often classified as infectious particles rather than microorganisms

B. Medical considerations

1. Target cells

A) Viruses interact and infect specific cells

B) Nearly every cell in the body is susceptible to at least one virus

C) Most cells infected by a reproducing virus will ultimately die

2. Infection

A) Diseases range from asymptomatic to deadly

B) Common symptoms include rashes, fever, muscle aches, respiratory involvement

and swollen lymph nodes

C) Infection can start at the portal of entry or the virus may enter the bloodstream and

cause infections elsewhere

D) Some may cause the cell to become cancerous (oncoviruses)

E) Many are strictly human but some are carried by animals (ex. rabies)

F) Many viruses take up permanent residence in the host and alternate between active

and latent states (ex. herpes)

G) Infants of infected mother’s are especially vulnerable to viral infection before and

during birth

C. General Structure

1. Size

A) Considered ultramicroscopic

B) About 2000 viruses could fit into an average bacterial cell

1) range in size from 10-500nm (nm=1/1,000,000th of a mm)

2. Capsid – outer shell

A) Constructed of repeating structures known as capsomeres

1) Capsomeres are composed of small clusters of proteins

B) 3 common shapes (based on capsid structure)

1) Helical viruses (ex. tobacco mosaic virus)

a) Composed of rod-shaped capsomeres arranged into hollow discs (circular


2) Polyhedral viruses (a.k.a. isometric) (ex. adenovirus & coronavirus)

a) Capsomeres are arranged in equilateral triangles that fit together to form a

spherical structure

3) Complex viruses (ex. bacteriophage)

a) Have a polyhedral head, helical tail, and attachment fibers

3. Viral Envelope

A) Found on a majority of viruses

B) Surrounds the capsid

C) Created from portions of the host cell’s membrane

1) The host cell’s membrane proteins are replaced with viral proteins

a) They connect the envelope to the capsid

b) Some protrude from the surface

i) Known as viral spikes

ii) Aid in attachment of the virus to a host cell

D) Functions of the capsid/envelope

1) Protects the virus from invasion by enzymes

2) Helps facilitate the movement of the viral DNA/RNA into the host cell

3) In some cases it also stimulates the production of antiviral agents by the host cell

4. Nucleic Acid

A) Found in all viruses

B) Can be DNA or RNA

1) DNA can be double-stranded or single stranded; circular or linear

2) RNA is usually single-stranded (there are rare cases of double-stranded RNA)

C) Directs the actions of the host cell once invasion has occurred

1) Viruses are sometimes called genetic parasites

5. Enzymes

A) Polymerases (DNA and/or RNA)

1) Direct the duplication of DNA and/or RNA in the host

B) Digestive enzymes

1) Digest the host cell’s DNA, RNA and/or proteins

C) Endonucleases

1) Cut host cell DNA to allow insertion of viral DNA

D. Viral Multiplication

1. Every virus varies slightly

2. Most viruses follow 1 of 2 models

A) Bacteriophage Model

1) Adsorption

a) The coming together of the virus and the host cell

i) Attachment may occur on the cell wall, pili or flagella

2) Penetration

a) The phage pushes an inner tube (similar to a syringe) through the cell wall

and injects the nucleic acid into the host

i) Repairs holes in cell wall afterwards

3) Replication

a) The viral nucleic acid immediately starts shutting down the host cell’s

metabolic processes

b) It then directs the host cell’s machinery (including its DNA) to produce new

viral components

4) Assembly

a) The viral components spontaneously assemble into new bacteriophages

5) Release

a) The host becomes so packed with viruses that it lyses (explodes) releasing the


B) Animal Virus Model

1) Adsorption

a) The virus normally attaches to membrane proteins that the host uses for its

normal functions

2) Penetration

a) Many enter via endocytosis

b) Some simply merge their envelope with the host cell membrane and release

their nucleocapsid into the host

3) Uncoating

a) The envelope (if present) and capsid are destroyed by the host cell’s digestive


b) releases the viral DNA/RNA into the host cell

4) Replication & Assembly

a) Viral DNA/RNA stops the normal host cell functions

b) The host organelles and raw materials are then used to produce new viral


c) New viruses assemble themselves spontaneously

5) Release

a) Usually involves exocytosis

b) Unlike with the bacteriophage, release does not cause sudden destruction of

the host cell

i) Death comes over time as the host’s nutrients are depleted and its normal

metabolic functions stopped

E. Classification based on routes of transmission

1. Enteric viruses – typically by a fecal-oral route

2. Respiratory viruses – inhaled within droplets and then multiply within the respiratory


3. Zoonotic viruses – transmit diseases from an animal to a human or to another animal

4. Sexually transmitted viruses – transmitted by sexual activity

5. Nomenclature

A) Family names end in –viridae

1) There are 14 families of RNA viruses and 7 families of DNA viruses that infect


B) Genera names end in –virus

C) Species names generally reflect the disease the virus causes (ex. poliovirus)

F. Types of DNA viruses infecting vertebrates

1. Adenoviridae – common cold

2. Poxviridae – smallpox and cowpox

3. Herpesviridae

A) Herpes simplex type I (HSV-1) – cold sores

B) Herpes simplex type II (HSV-2) – genital herpes

C) Varicella-Zoster virus (VSV) – chickenpox and shingles

D) Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) – infectious mononucleosis

4. Papovaviridae

A) Human papillomavirus (HPV) – warts (papillomas)

5. Hepadnaviridae

A) Hepatitis B virus (HBV)

G. Types of RNA viruses infecting vertebrates

1. Picornaviridae

A) Poliovirus

B) Rhinoviruses – common cold

C) Hepatitis A virus (HAV)

2. Orthomyxoviridae – influenza viruses (A, B, & C)

3. Paramyxoviridae – paramyxovirus (mumps) and rubeola virus (measles)

4. Togaviridae – rubella virus (rubella; a.k.a. German measles)

5. Rhabdoviridae – rhabdovirus (rabies)

6. Filoviviridae – Ebola & Marburg viruses

7. Bunyaviridae – Hantavirus (Sin Nombre virus; Hantavirus pulmonary


8. Retroviridae – Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV; AIDS)

9. Coronaviridae – common cold, SARS

10. Calciviridae – norovirus (Norwalk virus)

11. Flaviviridae – Hepatitis C & yellow fever viruses

H. Detection of Viral Infections

1. Examination of symptoms

2. Detection of cytopathic changes

A) Virus-induced damage to the cell that alters its microscopic appearance

1) Inclusion bodies

a) Compacted masses of new viruses or damaged cell organelles

3. Analysis of host cell DNA

4. Isolation and culturing

5. Detection of antibodies created in reaction to the virus

A) Example: blood test for HIV/AIDS

I. Treatment

1. In many cases you can only treat the symptoms

2. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses

3. Many drugs aim to block the viral replication by disrupting host cell structure/function

A) Often cause a number of adverse side effects

4. Interferon is one of the body’s natural defenses against viruses

A) Produced by a virus-infected cell and protects neighboring cells from infection
5. Antiviral Drugs

A) work many ways

1) Inhibit viral penetration/uncoating

a) ex. amantadine (Symmetrel) – influenza A

2) Inhibit neuraminidase (enzyme that aids in viral release)

a) oseltamivir (Tamiflu) – influenza A & B

3) Inhibit viral DNA polymerase

a) acyclovir (Zovirax) & valacyclovir (Valtrex) – herpes simplex virus (HSV)

and Varicella-Zoster virus (VZV)

4) Inhibit viral reverse transcriptase

a) zidovudine (AZT) – HIV

5) Inhibit viral protein synthesis

a) interferon  (Alferon, Roferon, & Intron) – hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis

C virus (HCV) and human pampilloma virus (HPV)

6) Inhibit viral RNA polymerase

a) ribavirin (Copegus & Rebetol) – respiratory synctial virus (RSV)


A. A group of proteinaceous infectious agents that have been linked to a number of slow-

progressing, fatal diseases of the CNS in humans and animals

B. All diseases result in brain function degeneration

1) collectively known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies

2) results from the death of neurons and the formation of sponge-like holes in the brain


C. Composed of only protein with no nucleic acid

D. Prions do not replicate like viruses

1) A protein with a similar amino acid composition is normally present in uninfected

CNS cells

a) its function is yet unknown

b) it varies from the prion protein in its tertiary structure

2) It is acquired by ingesting infected CNS cells (which can sometimes end up in meat

products if processed improperly)

3) Once a CNS cell is infected, the prion causes a mutation of the normal protein’s tertiary

structure resulting in a new prion protein

E. Prion Diseases

1) Scrapie – sheep

2) Kuru – humans

3) Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease – humans

4) Mad cow disease (BSE) – cattle

5) Chronic wasting disease – deer, elk, and moose

F. Prions are destroyed by chemicals that denature proteins and heat


A. Consists of a single-stranded, circular RNA molecule lacking a protein coat

B. It takes only a single viroid molecule to infect a host

C. At this time, they are only know to infect plants

1) ex. potato spindle tuber, citrus exocortis and cucumber pale fruit

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