• Question: what is a virus?

    Asked by leigha1234 to Angela, Gabriele, Karen, Shane on 20 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Shane Mc Guinness

      Shane Mc Guinness answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      Nice one Leigha,
      Well, viruses are tricky.
      Firstly, they’re very small indeed. Most microscopes can’t see them at all! They’re made up a protein shell containing genetic material similar to that inside our own cells (like RNA or DNA). It attacks your body by injecting this material into your own cells and changing the behaviour of the cells and causing our own cells to produce even more virus packages. Pretty scary, but our bodies are very good at attacking them back.

    • Photo: Karen McCarthy

      Karen McCarthy answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      Viruses are probably the most interesting thing on the planet – and notice how i said thing! Viruses are notoriously difficult to classify – they aren’t living because they need a host to replicate,and lack other characteristics of metabolic function, but yet they aren’t dead, because once in a cell they can replicate and reinfect consistently.

      And another thing – did you know that they are actually viruses which only infect bacteria? Bacteriophages are actually the most abundant thing in the world-you actually have more bacteriophage cells than microbes than humans!

    • Photo: Gabriele De Chiara

      Gabriele De Chiara answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      Hello leigha1234, viruses are infectious agents, which means that they are responsible for infections. They were discovered at the end of the 19th century. They are made of a lot of genetic material (DNA and RNA) that identifies them and some protein and lipid material that constitutes the body of the virus. They reproduce and carry genetic material so an open question is whether viruses are living organisms or simply a big cell. Did you know that viruses have been used in experiments of quantum mechanics to prove that they interfere like light waves? Check this link:

    • Photo: Angela Stevenson

      Angela Stevenson answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      Awesome questions Leigha! And great answers everyone.. now I ll only add a little bit to the pool of knowledge 😉 Viruses are weird little things… and a bit hard to understand. They aren’t alive since they don’t have cells so they can’t turn food into energy, and without a host (like us!) to infect they are just little packets of chemicals. BUT they aren’t dead either since they have genes, they can reproduce, and they evolve through natural selection like we do. Hope that answers your question 🙂