Virus Structure and Function
Date: May 2006
Why does a virus make us sick?
A virus is nothing other than a piece of RNA inside of a protein shell. The
protein shell acts like a needle and "injects" the RNA into our cells. Then
our cells start to decode the RNA into proteins. It is what these proteins
do that ultimately makes us sick. It certainly depends on what type of
virus you are talking about because different virii (the plural of virus)
infect us in different ways. If you want to learn more about it, you can
read up on the website below--it is fairly involved and might be too
technical for you. If it is, then you can always google virus and see what
you come up with!
When a virus multiplies inside of a cell it can do everything from being a
very minor aggravation to taking over critical functions in the cell for its
own reproduction and killing the cell. Many times just the imbalance this
causes in fluids in the body can kill a person or make them very ill.
Viruses attack cells by inserting their DNA into host cells and taking over
the protein making machinery to make viral proteins. Then they assemble the
new parts into new virus particles and the only way to get out the cell now
is to explode the cell. Now there are millions of new viral particles that
can go out and attack new cells. It takes your immune system about 7-10
days to round up all the viral particles and get rid of them. Also,
antibiotics are not effective against them. So you just have to wait it out
and take medicine to make you FEEL better, but not GET better.
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Update: June 2012