Discovery, Origin and History of Virus

Table of Contents:

  • Definition of Viruses
  • History of the Term "Virus"
  • Early Demonstrations of Viruses (L. Pasteur and A. Mayer, 1884-1886)
  • Filterable Viruses: D. Iwanowsky's Breakthrough (1892)
  • M. Beijerinck's Insights on Virus Replication (1898)
  • Bacteriophages: F. Twort and F. d'Herelle's Discovery
  • W. Stanley's Structural Revelation of TMV (1935)


Unveiling the Hidden World of Viruses: From Discovery to Molecular Insights

Definition of Viruses


Discovery, Origin and History of Virus

A virus can be defined as a non-cellular infectious entity containing RNA or DNA encased in a protein coat, reproducing only in a living cell.


History of the Term "Virus"

The word "virus" finds its origins in the Latin word "venome," meaning a poisonous substance. Initially, it was used to describe any disease-causing agent.


Early Demonstrations of Viruses 

(L. Pasteur and A. Mayer, 1884-1886)

Around 50 years before the development of the electron microscope, L. Pasteur and A. Mayer demonstrated the existence of viruses as a group of acellular disease-causing agents. They showed that these agents could be transmitted under controlled laboratory conditions.


Filterable Viruses: 

D. Iwanowsky's Breakthrough (1892)

In 1892, D. Iwanowsky prepared an extract from tobacco plants suffering from mosaic disease. The resulting filtrate, after passing through a filter to prevent bacterial passage, could infect healthy tobacco leaves. These disease-causing agents were named filterable viruses.


M. Beijerinck's Insights on Virus Replication (1898)

M. Beijerinck established that viruses possess the property of replication common to all living things. He further demonstrated that filterable viruses multiply within host cells.


Bacteriophages:

F. Twort and F. d'Herelle's Discovery


Discovery, Origin and History of Virus


In a pivotal discovery, F. Twort and F. d'Herelle independently found that some viruses infect bacteria, terming them bacteriophages or "eaters of bacteria." This revealed that viruses can cause diseases in animals, plants, and bacteria.


W. Stanley's Structural Revelation of TMV (1935)

In 1935, W. Stanley demonstrated the structure of the plant virus TMV by crystallizing it, revealing a composition largely composed of protein. Subsequent studies showed that these crystals also contained a small but constant amount of RNA.



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