In the case of most living organisms, the answer to the question of reproduction is pretty straightforward. The original way to reproduce is only slightly tweaked and you have your answer. However, viruses are not as simple as other living organisms.
The fact of the matter is that viruses confused a lot of scientists when they were first discovered. From what was evident, these don’t have a life outside of an organism, which makes them non-living.
However, inside an organism’s body, viruses work like any other living entity, invading and sabotaging your health like a typical foreign parasite. On top of this, another interesting factor is that viruses cannot reproduce outside of their host.
This means that these parasites need the host for replicating. Let’s dig into more details of how that works:
How do viruses reproduce?
The simplest explanation is that a virus enters its hosts and hijacks his cellular machinery to reproduce. In other words, it takes over and commands a cell to reproduce on his behalf and then releases its kith and kin in the body of the host, which can be an animal or plant cell.
To simplify the process, we have the following process:
- The viruses attacked to a specific cell of the host
- It injects its genetic material into the cell
- The host cell then employs the genetic material to make new viruses
- The host cell opens up and releases the viruses
Now this is the simplest version of understanding how a virus reproduces. Diving deeper, we have two processes that viruses employ to reproduce in a host’s body. These are the lytic cycle and the lysogenic cycle. There is more on them below.
The lytic cycle of a virus’s reproduction
In the lytic cycle, the viruses cycle attaches itself to a host cell. Once done, it infuses the cell with nucleic acid. This component of the host takes control of the host cell and commands it for its reproduction.
The virus begins to multiply with nucleic acid and the protein coat. Therefore, developing the new viruses. The host cell is eventually filled with new viruses. Subsequently, it bursts. The new viruses then go on to repeat the lytic cycle by searching new host cells to repeat the procedure for them.
An overview of this cycle will show the following:
Step 1: Attachment: The virus attaches to the cell
Step 2: Entry: The virus injects its genetic material
Step 3: Replication: The virus takes control and multiplies
Step 4: Assembly: The new viruses are assembled
Step 5: Release: Virus enzyme causes the host cell to burst and release the new virus cells
The lysogenic cycle of a virus’s reproduction
This cycle of the virus’s reproduction is slow in contrast with the lytic cycle. It is typically exhibited by viruses such as herpes and HIV. In this cases, the nucleic acid or genetic material of the virus is present inside the chromosome of the host cells. However, it is not active.
Consequently, the virus does not take immediate control of the cell’s function. However, in the long haul, the genetic material of the virus will take over the host cell and multiply. As soon as new viruses are produced, the host cell ultimately dies.
An overview of the lysogenic cycle shows:
Step 1: Attachment: The virus attaches to the host
Step 2: Entry: The virus injects the genetic material in the host cell
Step 3: Integration: The virus’s DNA integrates with the genome of the host cell
Step 4: Replication: When the host cell reproduces, the virus’s DNA is copied so the new host cells will also contain the copy of the virus DNA
Step 5: Induction: Viral DNA is activated with exposure to certain environmental conditions
Step 6: Replication: The virus divides like it does in the lytic cycle
Step 7: Assembly: The new viruses are assembled
Step 8: Release: Virus enzymes promotes the cell to burst and release the new viruses that infect other cells of the host
It is easy for viruses to replicate in the host cells because a virus is only made of its genetic material or nucleic acid that is protected by a protein coat. These components are easily formed in the host cell.