There are generally six steps that take place in viral replication. Adsorption(attachment to the host cell), penetration, uncoating, genome replication (viral synthesis), maturation, and release. The process of replication is different for DNA and RNA viruses.
The origin of viruses is not entirely clear, but the currently favoured explanation is that they are derived from their host organisms, originating from transferrable elements like plasmids or transposons. It has also been suggested that they may represent extremely reduced microbes, appeared separately in the primordial soup that gave rise to the first cells, or that the different sorts of viruses appeared through different mechanisms.
Other infectious particles which are even simpler in structure than viruses include viroids, virusoids, and prions.
Human viral diseases
Examples of diseases caused by viruses include the common cold, which is caused by any one of a variety of related viruses; smallpox; AIDS, which is caused by HIV; and cold sores, which are caused by herpes simplex. Recently it has been shown that cervical cancer is caused at least partly by papillomavirus (which causes papillomas, or warts), representing the first significant evidence in humans for a link between cancer and an infective agent. There is current controversy over whether borna virus, previously thought of primarily as the causative agent of neurological disease in horses, could be responsible for psychiatric illness in humans. The relative ability of viruses to cause disease is described in terms of virulence.
Prevention and treatment of viral diseases
Because they use the machinery of their host cells, viruses are difficult to kill. The most effective medical approaches to viral diseases, thus far, are vaccination to provide resistance to infection, and drugs that treat the symptoms of viral infections. Patients often ask for antibiotics, which are useless against viruses, and their misuse against viral infections is one of the causes of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. That said, sometimes the prudent course of action is to begin a course of antibiotic treatment while waiting for test results to determine whether the patient's symptoms are caused by a virus or a bacterial infection.
See also: Computer virus, Nanobacterium
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