Structure and Function
The mature virus organism (virion) consists of viral genes contained in a protective protein shell (a capsid). Viral genes may be deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA); genetic RNA is unique to viruses. RNA viruses include enteroviruses (eg, causing poliomyelitis), rhinoviruses (common cold), rhabdoviruses (rabies), paramyxoviruses (measles), orthomyxoviruses (influenza) and almost all plant viruses.
DNA viruses include papavoviruses (warts), adenoviruses (acute respiratory disease), herpesviruses (cold sore, infectious mononucleosis, chicken pox), poxviruses (smallpox, cowpox), hepatitis B, and many viruses that infect bacteria (bacteriophages) and insects.
Similarly, plant-specific viruses (discovered by Russian botanist Dimitri Ivanovsky in 1892) and animal-specific viruses (discovered by Friedrich Loeffler and Paul Frosch in 1898) have preferred host cells. Such preferences may stem from the origins of viruses, which are thought by some theorists to be degenerate, subcellular, self-replicating particles.
Viruses infect cells by fusion, endocytosis or injection. In viruses of a certain structure, the viral envelope fuses with the cell membrane of a host cell and the virus genome it contains is introduced into the cell. In endocytosis the host cell engulfs the virus, engulfment being triggered by contact with a viral particle, and the nucleic material is released from the capsid.
Cells undergoing a lytic virus infection frequently have their own synthetic processes inhibited but produce hundreds of identical copies of the infecting virion. The replicative strategies employed by RNA viruses are diverse and complex, depending upon whether the virus genome can function directly as messenger RNA, which instructs host cell ribosomes (cell organelles through which protein synthesis occurs) to make viral enzymes and proteins, or whether messenger RNA must be synthesized on the viral genetic template, before protein and enzyme synthesis can proceed.
Viruses cause major diseases in plants and animals, but there are few effective methods for cure. Plant breeding may yield strains resistant to viruses, but this avenue of approach is unavailable to humans.
More successful efforts have been directed towards the development of vaccines for preventing viral disease. Properly administered, such vaccines have resulted in the worldwide eradication of smallpox and the virtual disappearance of poliomyelitis, measles and rubella from specific populations.
Author K.R. ROZEE
Links to Other Sites
The website for Health Canada. This section contains an overview of Health Canada and provides you points of entry to many Health Canada-specific related topics.
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
The CVMA website features up to date information about vaccine protocols, health care products and other animal health topics.
Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange
CATIE is a leading source of HIV/AIDS treatment information for Canadians living with the virus and their caregivers.
West Nile Virus
Find out how to minimizing your risk of contracting West Nile Virus. From the Health Canada website.
The website for FluWatch, Canada's national influenza surveillance system. Check this site for information about current influenza activity in Canada and abroad. From the website for the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The fightflu.ca website provides one-stop access to online information and resources about influenza (flu). From the Government of Canada in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments.
Canada suspends dispersal of Novartis flu shots following similar move in Europe
An article about troublesome ingredients found in some batches of flu vaccines. Also describes the protective elements of flu shots. From thestar.com.
CBC Digital Archives: Health
Search this extensive multimedia CBC website for news stories about a wide range of public health issues in Canada.
7 swine flu myths you should know about
Quick facts about swine influenza (swine flu) from the CBC website.
Public Health Agency of Canada
Check this site for the latest news about current health issues. Covers chronic disease prevention, public health emergencies, infectious disease outbreaks, and other topics related to health hazards.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
About Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS.) From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.
Fight the Bite
Useful tips for reducing the risk of West Nile virus infection from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also provides extensive information for health care professionals. See also the website for the Public Health Agency of Canada.
This glossary was developed to help you understand the terms used in the field of biotechnology. From the website for Health Canada.
Do Bugs Need Drugs?
Do Bugs Need Drugs? is a community education program that addresses the problem of antibiotic resistance. Guidelines for managing respiratory tract infections, including colds, flu, sore throat, cough, ear aches, sinus infections, chest colds (bronchitis) and pneumonia can be found in the Parent and the Healthcare Professional sections.
Reduce the risk – Protect yourself
Tips on reducing the risk of West Nile virus infection. A Government of Alberta website.