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Chapter 21 : Viruses Confound Microbe Hunters

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Abstract:

Viruses are incapable of multiplying by themselves. Pioneering studies on viruses that attack bacteria laid the groundwork for analyzing details of the mechanisms employed by viruses that invade and multiply in plant and animal cells. A detailed knowledge of the structures of many viruses and of their replication processes is now present. After the end of World War II, microbiologists were finally beginning to see what viruses actually looked like, and they were indeed interesting: geometrical structures, of different degrees of complexity, approximately 10 to 100 times smaller than bacteria. The great breakthroughs in understanding of viruses came from study of bacteriophages, viruses that attack bacteria. Bacteria grow much more rapidly than animal and plant cells, and it is consequently much simpler to do many kinds of experiments with bacteria and with the viruses that attack them. The fundamental aspects of virus multiplication turned out to be essentially the same for bacterial, plant, and animal viruses. There are many differences in details that are important for understanding how to combat infectious plant and animal viruses, but the basic features of virus multiplication were first revealed most clearly by studying bacteriophages. The features that distinguish viruses from all other living organisms are presented in this chapter. Viruses lack the biochemical mechanisms needed for their own multiplication. In this sense, they could be called incomplete organisms. Viruses are inert and can be stored for long periods without loss of infectivity.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Viruses Confound Microbe Hunters, p 140-144. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch21
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Figures

Image of Figure 33
Figure 33

Approximate relative sizes of some bacteria, viruses, and protein molecules. Reference diameters: Neisseria gonorrhoeae cell, 1 micrometer (one millionth of a meter); influenza virus, 0.1 micrometer. The hemoglobin molecule measures 0.003 × 0.015 micrometer.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Viruses Confound Microbe Hunters, p 140-144. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch21
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Image of Figure 34
Figure 34

Structure of a bacterial virus, or bacteriophage (“phage”). Reproduction of the virus is initiated by attachment of its tail fibers to the surface of a susceptible bacterial cell. A syringe-like action then injects the phage DNA into the bacterium. This DNA alters the metabolic systems of the cell to produce bacteriophage DNA and proteins instead of the normal cell components. After about 30 minutes, the cell bursts, freeing 100 or more new phage particles.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Viruses Confound Microbe Hunters, p 140-144. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch21
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References

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