Wikipedia:Today's featured article/October 5, 2009

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The reconstructed 1918 influenza virus

A virus is a microscopic infectious agent that can reproduce only inside a host cell. Viruses infect all types of organisms: from animals and plants, to bacteria and archaea. Since the initial discovery of tobacco mosaic virus by Martinus Beijerinck in 1898, more than 5,000 types of virus have been described in detail, although most types of virus remain undiscovered. Viruses are ubiquitous, as they are found in almost every ecosystem on Earth, and are the most abundant type of biological entity on the planet. The study of viruses is known as virology, and is a branch of microbiology. Viruses consist of two or three parts: all viruses have genes made from either DNA or RNA, long molecules that carry genetic information; all have a protein coat that protects these genes; and some have an envelope of fat that surrounds them when they are outside a cell. The origins of viruses in the evolutionary history of life are unclear. Viruses spread in many ways; plant viruses are often transmitted from plant to plant by insects that feed on sap, such as aphids, while animal viruses can be carried by blood-sucking insects. These disease-bearing organisms are known as vectors. Not all viruses cause disease, as many viruses reproduce without causing any obvious harm to the infected organism. Antiviral drugs have been developed to treat both life-threatening and more minor infections. (more...)

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