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Virology is one of the rapidly emerging fields of biotechnology and microbiology which deals with the study of viruses and viral infections. Viruses are small microscopic particles that are incapable of reproducing on their own and depend on the host for their very survival. They are responsible for a variety of infections and diseases. Some of the viral infections are deadly and life-threatening. There are several branches in virology like molecular virology, neurovirology, veterinary virology etc.
Infectious diseases are disorders caused by viruses. Some infectious diseases can be passed from person to person like common cold and influenza. Some are transmitted by bites from insects or animals. And others are acquired by ingesting contaminated food or water or being exposed to organisms in the environment. Signs and symptoms vary depending on the organism causing the infection, but often include fever and fatigue. Mild infections may respond to rest and home remedies, while some life-threatening infections may require hospitalization. Many infectious diseases, such as measles and chickenpox, can be prevented by vaccines. Frequent and thorough hand-washing also helps protect you from most infectious diseases.
Viral infections are the most common ailment in human beings. There are different types of viral infections but the main symptoms of most of the viral infections are the same. These include fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, diarrhoea, sore throat, coughing. Viral infections may spread in many ways. Some people may get a viral infection by swallowing or inhaling virus, by being bitten by insects, through sexual contact or through transfusion of contaminated blood.
The infections are diagnosed primarily after the appearance of the symptoms. Diagnostic virology has now entered the mainstream of medical practice. Multiple methods are used for the laboratory diagnosis of viral infections, including viral culture, antigen detection, nucleic acid detection, and serology.
Viral isolation is the most important step in the diagnosis of infection. Usually the virus is isolated from the blood, serum and fluid samples collected from the infected patients. Most of the viruses have RNA as the genetic material. Hence several serological methods have been identified for the purification of RNA from the sample and their cultivation.
When the immune system encounters a virus it produces specific antibodies that bind to it and eliminate it. Antibodies present in the blood samples may be used to determine if the person has been exposed to the infection. The second line of defense is by cell-mediated and humoral immune response by the production of B cells and T helper cells. The immune system retains the memory of the infection hence a second encounter of the same virus is prevented and eliminated.
Skin is the largest organ of the human body that prevents foreign agents from entering the body. But sometimes the skin itself might be prone to infection and diseases. The infection of the skin caused by viruses infections range from mild to severe. Symptoms like rash, pain and swelling are seen in the earlier stages of the infection while in severe cases pus secretion, blisters, skin sloughing, dark necrotic appearance in the skin that might becomes discoloured and painful. Different types of viral skin infections include shingles (herpes zoster), chickenpox, Molluscum contagiosum, warts, measles, hand, foot, and mouth disease
Viruses are responsible for most of the sexually transmitted diseases. They spread by sexual contact with the infected person. Some of the symptoms include Pain, itching and small sores, painful urination and abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina. Diagnosis is done after the appearance of the symptoms. It is usually done by collecting Blood samples, Urine sample and Fluid samples and testing it for the presence of viruses. Prevention is better than cure, STDs cannot be easily treated. However, it can be prevented by having protected sex and vaccination.
Skin is the largest organ of the human body that prevents foreign agents from entering the body. But sometimes the skin itself might be prone to infection and diseases. The infection of the skin caused by viruses infections range from mild to severe. Symptoms like rash, pain and swelling are seen in the earlier stages of the infection while in severe cases pus secretion, blisters, skin sloughing, dark necrotic appearance in the skin that might become discoloured and painful. Different types of viral skin infections include shingles (herpes zoster), chickenpox, Molluscum contagiosum, warts, measles, hand, foot, and mouth disease
Viruses can also be transmitted by the bite of anthropod insects like mosquitoes, ticks, triatomine bugs, sandflies, and blackflies. The diseases caused by these vectors are termed as vectorborne viral infections. Vectors are capable of causing several types of infections. Arthropod vectors are cold-blooded (ectothermic) and thus especially sensitive to climatic factors. Weather influences survival and reproduction rates of vectors, in turn influencing habitat suitability, distribution and abundance; intensity and temporal pattern of vector activity (particularly biting rates) throughout the year; and rates of development, survival and reproduction of pathogens within vectors. However, climate is only one of many factors influencing vector distribution, such as habitat destruction, land use, pesticide application, and host density.
Viruses not only infect human beings but also cause infections in other species. But the viruses that cause infections in vertebrates are different from those that affect other species. There are several factors that influence cross species transmission of infections. Similarity between species, for example, transfer between mammals, is believed to be facilitated by similar immunological defenses
Consuming contaminated food and water can lead to a variety of infections. Viruses or microbes may be the causative agents for this contamination. They typically cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Norovirus is found to be the most common causes of death due to foodborne illness. Norovirus usually causes only a mild illness, but because it affects so many people, it is among the top causes of death. Rotavirus is very common in children and it can cause severe diarrhoea and dehydration.
The distribution of viruses and viral infections across the globe is referred as epidemiology. Most epidemiologic studies of infectious diseases have concentrated on the factors that influence acquisition and spread, because this knowledge is essential for developing methods of prevention and control. Historically, epidemiologic studies and the application of the knowledge gained from them have been central to the control of the great epidemic diseases, such as cholera, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, and typhus
Viruses are also known to induce cancer in humans. The viruses that cause cancer are termed as oncovirus. Many of these viral oncogenes have been discovered and identified to cause cancer. The main viruses associated with human cancers are human papillomavirus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus, Epstein-Barr virus, human T-lymphotropic virus, Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and Merkel cell polyomavirus.
New Viruses keep emerging each day and the term emerging virus is used to indicate the viruses that have been identified recently. Recent advances have occurred in the identification and understanding of new hantaviruses in the Americas, causing an acute respiratory disease. Although new viruses are discovered almost yearly (e.g., Australian bat lyssavirus), other "older" viruses (e.g., dengue) are re-emerging, infecting millions of people every year with significant mortality
Viral infections can also occur during pregnancies and it is the major cause for of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Infections can develop in the neonate transplacentally, perinatally (from vaginal secretions or blood), or postnatally (from breast milk or other sources). Traditionally, the only viral infections of concern during pregnancy were those caused by rubella virus, CMV, and herpes simplex virus (HSV). Other viruses now known to cause congenital infections include parvovirus B19 (B19V), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), West Nile virus, measles virus, enteroviruses, adenovirus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and Zika virus.
Vaccines are used to boost the immune system and prevent serious life-threatening diseases. Vaccines expose you to a very small, very safe amount of viruses or bacteria that have been weakened or killed. Your immune system then learns to recognize and attack the infection if you are exposed to it later in life. As a result, you will not become ill, or you may have a milder infection. This is a natural way to deal with infectious diseases.
Antivirals have been developed to act against the viruses. Most antivirals are used for specific viral infections, while a broad-spectrum antiviral is effective against a wide range of viruses. Unlike most antibiotics, antiviral drugs do not destroy their target pathogen instead they inhibit their development. Antiviral drugs can be toxic to human cells. Also, viruses can develop resistance to antiviral drugs. Other antiviral drugs strengthen the immune response to the viral infection.