Ten cool facts about viruses

facts1. Some parasitic wasps lay eggs in caterpillars, where they mature into adult wasps. The wasp eggs contain a virus, encoded in the wasp genome, which prevents the caterpillar from rejecting the eggs.

2. There are a million virus particles per milliliter of seawater – for a global total of 1030 virions! Lined up end to end, they would stretch 200 million light years into space.

3. The genetic information of viruses can be DNA or RNA; single or double stranded; one molecule or in pieces.

4. The name virus was coined from the Latin word meaning slimy liquid or poison.

5. Walter Reed discovered the first human virus, yellow fever virus, in 1901.

6. Viruses are not alive – they are inanimate complex organic matter. They lack any form of energy, carbon metabolism, and cannot replicate or evolve. Viruses are reproduced and evolve only within cells.

7. Over 1016 human immunodeficiency virus genomes are produced daily on the entire planet. As a consequence, thousands of viral mutants arise by chance every day that are resistant to every combination of antiviral compounds in use or in development.

8. The first human influenza virus was isolated in 1933. In 2005, the 1918 pandemic influenza virus strain was constructed from nucleic acid sequence obtained from victims of the disease.

9. The biggest known viruses are mimiviruses, which are 400 nanometers (0.0004 millimeters) in diameter. The viral genome is 1,200,000 nucleotides in length and codes for over 900 proteins.

10. The smallest known viruses are circoviruses, which are 20 nanometers (0.00002 millimeters) in diameter. The viral genome is 1,700 nucleotides in length and codes for two proteins.

Bonus fact: The HIV-1 genome, which is about 10,000 nucleotides long, can exist as 106020 different sequences. To put this number in perspective, there are 1011 stars in the Milky Way galaxy and 1080 protons in the universe.

I made up this list a few weeks ago in response to a request from a journalist. The final version, shortened and re-ordered by an editor, was published online at ColumbiaNews.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • breadin 27 February 2015, 12:02 pm

    lol butts

  • Emilyy 23 March 2015, 4:19 am

    Thanks so much helped me heepsss xx

  • GroundHog37 25 March 2015, 4:50 pm

    Pretty cool virus facts that helps me understand viruses better

  • That australian 24 April 2015, 10:09 am


  • wub 24 April 2015, 10:13 am

    or female?

  • profvrr 24 April 2015, 10:20 am

    Wrong. Pandoraviruses are now the largest viruses. 1.5 microns long.

  • someone 2 September 2015, 9:53 am

    it helped me do my homework – sort of

  • Mike 28 September 2015, 3:00 pm


  • Gavin Perrell 23 May 2016, 4:12 pm

    Same I had to do a project for school.

  • Anisa 1 October 2016, 11:37 am

    This helped me in biology Thanks!

  • megan 14 November 2016, 2:48 pm

    Did not help me because I am learning about something different and I went on this and I thought it was all about email virus and it was not so yea

  • megan 14 November 2016, 2:49 pm

    Not for me ne he hehe

  • Reshma Roy 3 October 2017, 5:56 pm

    It kinda helped me at the homework

  • Kaya Nieto 5 December 2017, 5:07 pm

    It helped me with science homework to.