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Virus and Diseases

Viruses are very tiny organisms with their diameters in nanometers level. Viruses exist almost everywhere, such like in the air, soil and animal body. Human body also habors a lot of viruses, but most of them do not cause diseases. Human immune system can generate antibodies against viruses, the antibody will recognize the virus and destroy it.

Sometimes the virus and human immune system can establish a balance. However when the human immune system is weak due to various reasons, the viruses can break the balance and cause problems, became so called opportunist pathogen. For example, the BK polyomavirus is presented in the kidney of ~80% population, however it only cause nephritis in limited population. But that don't mean all viruses are not harmful, or opportunist pathogens, some viruses can cause serious diseases, including AIDS, SARS, Hepatitis, Herpes Simplex etc.

List of diseases caused by viruses:
Disease Name
Virus Type
Organs Affected
• Influenza RNA Respiratory Tract Droplets
• Adenovirus Infections DNA Lungs, Eyes Droplets, Contact Droplets
• Respiratory Syncytial Disease RNA Respiratory Tract Droplets
• Rhinovirus Infections RNA Upper Respiratory Tract Droplets,Contact
• Herpes Simplex DNA Skin,Pharynx, Genital organs Contact
• Chicken pox ( Varicella) DNA Skin, Nervous System Droplets, Contact
• Measles (Rubeola) RNA Respiratory Tract, Skin Droplets, Contact
• German Measles ( Rubella) RNA Skin Droplets, Contact
• Mumps (Epidemic Parotitis) RNA Salivary Glands, Blood Droplets
• Small Pox (Variola) DNA Skin, Blood Contact, Droplets
• Warts Kawasaki Disease DNA Skin ?
• Yellow Fever RNA Liver, Blood Mosquito ( Aedes Aegypti)
• Dengue Fever RNA Blood, Muscles Mosquito ( Aedes Aegypti )
• Hepatitis A RNA Liver Food, Water, Contact
• Hepatitis B DNA Liver Contact with body Fluids
• NANB Hepatitis RNA Liver Contact with body Fluids
• Viral Gastroenteritis Many RNA Viruses Intestine Food, Water
• Viral Fevers Many RNA Viruses Blood Contact,arthropods
• Cytomegalovirus Disease DNA Blood, Lungs Contact, Congenital transfer
AIDS Retrovirus ( RNA) T-lymphocytes Contact with body Fluids
• Rabies RNA Brain, Spinal cord Conact with body Fluids
• Polio RNA Intestine,Brain, Spinal Cord Food, Water, Contact
• Slow Virus Disease Prions Brain ?
• Arboviral Enephalitis Many RNA viruses Brain Anthropods
• Ebola Ebola viruses whole body bodily fluids

Virus has two types, DNA virus and RNA virus. The genome of DNA virus is consisted of DNA, and similarily RNA is the genetic material of a RNA virus. The virus genome is typically several kilo basepairs (kb), and usually just contains several genes. They use the host's system for replication and gene expression. The structure of virus is consisted of the small genetic materials and a protein envelope. Since higher temperature can cause protein denaturation, viruses are sensitive to heat. However, they can remain hibernate in lower temperature for a long time. For example, viruses were found preserved in millions years old ice in Antarctica.

Human immune system usually can recognize a specific piece of a virus protein sequence, thus identify and destroy them. And the virus specific information can be remembered by the immune system, sometimes through the whole life. This mechanism has been used to make vaccines. Usually vaccines are made of weakened virus, which will not cause disease. The vaccine will stimulate the immune system, and the immune system will remember the specific character of the virus. Next time when the real virus invades, the immune system can quickly recognize it and destroy it before it cause serious illness.

However, compared to other organisms, virus mutated very fast. Sometimes there are a lot of variants, and it is a challenge to produce effective vaccines for all the variants. For example, the Influenza virus, next year the virus strain may be different, and you may need to have a new shot of vaccine.

There are thousands of virus genomes have been sequenenced and made public to all researchers. Click here for the detailed virus sequencing project.

» Bacteria and Diseases