Molecular virology

Molecular virology is the study of viruses on a molecular level. Viruses are submicroscopic parasites that replicate inside host cells. They are able to successfully infect and parasitize all kinds of life forms- from microorganisms to plants and animals- and as a result viruses have more biological diversity than the rest of the bacterial, plant, and animal kingdoms combined. Studying this diversity is the key to a better understanding of how viruses interact with their hosts, replicate inside them, and cause diseases. Because viruses are critically dependent on their host cells and have co-evolved with them, studies of viruses have historically provided numerous insights into basic cellular biology. Viruses are also important vectors for gene therapy and vaccination, and viral gene products may have important research and clinical uses. Increased understanding of viruses has also revolutionized the treatment and prevention of disease, but the emergence of diseases such as AIDS, avian influenza, and SARS demonstrates that viral diseases remain an ongoing problem with staggering public health implications. In addition, viral-associated cancers are a leading cause of death, chronic viral diseases cause significant morbidity, and bioterrorism based on pathogenic viruses is a serious concern. Thus, the study of viruses will continue to provide important biological insights and suggest new strategies for coping with serious human diseases.

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