A virus is a small infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of other organisms. Viruses can infect all types of life forms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea. Virus particles (known as virions) consist of two or three parts: i) the genetic material made from either DNA or RNA, long molecules that carry genetic information; ii) a protein coat that protects these genes; and in some cases iii) an envelope of lipids that surrounds the protein coat when they are outside a cell. The shapes of viruses range from simple helical and icosahedral forms to more complex structures. The average virus is about one one-hundredth the size of the average bacterium. Most viruses are too small to be seen directly with an optical microscope.