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A virus is a tiny, sub-microscopic particle that contains genetic information. Most experts consider them to be non-living, because they don't display most of the characteristics of living beings. Viruses only have the ability to reproduce and grow when they are infecting host cells. The rest of the time they are in a sort of dormant state, called a capsid. There are over five thousand different forms of known viruses.

 

 

The appearance of viruses varies widely. Bacteriophages , which attack bacteria, almost look like little spaceships. Some other viruses look round with little spikes sticking out, or like a piece of tangled string, or like a thin stick. Their structure is relatively simple in that they only have two or three components. All viruses contain genetic information, which is surrounded by a protein coat. Some also have a fat membrane.

 

Viruses have the ability to infect a wide variety of living organisms, including animals, bacteria, plants, and archaea. They are known for causing many diseases in humans. Viruses are responsible for smallpox, HIV, influenza, the cold, sexually transmitted diseases, and many other diseases, although a lot of viruses exist without causing any problems to the host.

 

Humans and other vertebrate animals have immune systems that can protect against viral infections. The immune system creates antibodies which fight against viruses and try to prevent them from doing harm, but it often takes time for the body to learn how to defend itself against a strain it hasn't encountered before. Sometimes, as with HIV, the immune system is incapable of neutralizing the virus.

 

The evolution of viruses makes it more difficult to defend against them. Because viruses can reproduce many generations in a short amount of time, their genetics can change quickly. This is why there are new and different strains of the flu every year. They tend to become more dangerous over time, because the viral particles that are harder to fight off are more likely to reproduce and infect another organism. Medications like antibiotics accelerate these genetic changes and, over time, lead to “superviruses.”

 

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