10 Interesting Things About Viruses

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  1. Viruses are not the same as bacteria

Although both viruses and bacteria can make you sick, they are not the same thing. Viruses, unlike bacteria, cannot survive on their own as they cannot reproduce or create their own energy. This means that they have to override the system of existing cells to cause any problems.

  1. Viruses all have the same structure

All viruses are made up of a nucleic acid core, which contains DNA or RNA and details the process of overriding the existing cell system and creating more viruses. They also contain a protein capsid, which is a protein barrier that coats the core and protects it from the outside.

  1. Viruses come in three shapes

All viruses are based on three common shapes. The helical virus has a protein capsid that forms a twisting tube around the core,  the polyhedral virus looks like a polygon with varying sides and the complex virus has bits of protein creating different shapes around the core.

  1. Viruses can’t be treated with antibiotics

Unlike for bacteria, antibiotics cannot be used to treat viruses. This is because viruses utilize the body of existing cells to function, rather than relying on themselves. To treat viruses scientists must find the tiny discrepancies between the original call and the virus, which takes time.

  1. Viruses can’t infiltrate all cells

Viruses can only attach themselves to cells with corresponding shapes. These corresponding cells are called the host range and are different for different viruses. Viruses with large host ranges can infect humans and animals, whereas those with small host ranges can only infect one cell.

  1. Viruses can attack bacteria

Viruses infiltrate bacterial cells like other cells in the body. These viruses are called bacteriophage and infiltrate bacteria to replicate themselves. They either replicate themselves straight away or they lay dormant, so the bacteria replicates itself with the virus naturally.

  1. Viruses can help treat bacterial infections

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a growing problem and scientists may start using viruses to try and treat them. This is because when viruses infiltrate bacterial cells, they don’t attack the human cell. This means that viruses could help kill bacterial infections without damaging healthy cells.

  1. Viruses are used in vaccines

Vaccines are used to teach the body how to fight off a virus. They contain small doses of viruses in order to prepare the body for incoming attacks, without falling ill first.

  1. Viruses replicate themselves in different ways

Viruses need to replicate their genes in order to create viral proteins to reproduce, however, they cannot all do this in the same way as their host cells are different. Thus, the smallpox virus will force its genes into the nucleus, whilst HIV will use an enzyme to place its DNA there.

  1. Genetic variations make viruses harder to treat

Viruses use either host enzymes or viral enzymes to copy their DNA and insert it into the host’s nucleus. Viral enzymes tend to commit errors in this process, which creates genetic variations and makes viruses harder to treat.

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