Immunity Against Viruses


Introduction

Viruses are small particles which infect living cells; this makes them obligate intracellular parasites. They have no reproductive mechanisms of their own so instead must use host cells to replicate. There are two main threats for a virus; the host’s immunity and the death of the host. Both of which will typically prevent the virus from propagating.

Many viruses are able to survive within the host for a long time without causing disease to the primary host. However when this virus is transferred to a secondary host, it is possible for a lethal disease to arise as a result. (An example is the transmission of the rabies virus to man). Vaccinating against the harmful effects of a virus therefore works best in the secondary host where the virus is not well adapted.

Structure of a Virus

Particles of a virus are known as virions. Virions encapsulate the nucleic acid core, which is surrounded by a layer of lipoprotein (or protein); this is known as the capsid. The degree of complexity of a virus can differ greatly. Viruses can contain either RNA or DNA and they can be either single stranded or double stranded, any combination of these still allows the virus (once in the host cell) to replicate.

Viral Pathogenicity

The virion is able to bind to a wide range of molecules to mediate attachment and internalisation by a host cell (by endocytosis). Once inside the cell, the capsid of the virion breaks down releasing the viral nucleic acid into the cytoplasm of the host cell. Once inside the cytoplasm, the viral nucleic acid is able to replicate and at the same time, it is also able to inhibit the production of DNA/RNA (thus protein synthesis) of the host cell.

Possible outcomes for a cell infected by a virus:

Lytic Infection – Host cell is destroyed, this is caused by virulent viruses

Persistent Infection – Host cell is not lysed, but virions are released slowly, over a longer period

Latent Infection – Occurs when there is a delay between the infection by the virus and the onset of symptoms

Transformation – Some viruses are able to transform a normal cell into a tumour cell

Advertisements
  1. January 1st, 2010
    Trackback from : Trackback

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: