The Space Invaders Inside You

Viruses! They can infect all different types of organisms: humans, animals, plants, and even the smallest species of bacteria. There are 5,000 known species of viruses, they are found in every single ecosystem, and they are the most abundant organism on earth. Though the diversity of viruses are vast, (some are covered in proteins, some are rod shaped, and their genomes can be single or double stranded), they all rely on cells in order to reproduce, survive, and evolve. Their entire purpose in life is to invade an organism’s cells, reproduce, and destroy, a pretty bad ass life on the whole. One of the coolest things about viruses is their structure IMO, there are four main structures: the first is a rod shape, the second is a icosahedral, a ball, and finally a icosahedral shape with a body and legs.


My personal favorite type of virus is a bacteriophage. As the name suggests these are viruses that infect and reproduce within bacterial cells. The life cycle of these viruses aren’t particularly interesting to science (un)enthusiasts, however, they structure and function of these guys can be fascinating to anyone.  The head is made of proteins arranged into a icosahedral shape with the viral genome packaged tightly inside (so tightly in fact, the internal pressure within the head can be up to 735 pounds per square inch!). Under the head is a collar, which is just that, a fancy looking jester-like collar which is mainly used in transportation by using it as a propeller. The sheath is underneath the collar and neck and is the body of the virus which is entirely wrapped in proteins, the base plate is at the bottom of the sheath is used as an anchor the virus can use to attach to the prey cell. Lastly, there are six tail fibers (which are basically creepy, spider-like legs) these also allows the cell to attach and to move.

My representation of a virus.

My artistic representation of a virus.

Now that we know the structure of the virus, let’s see them in action…

Seriously... These are real photos...

Seriously… These are real photos…

Pretty creepy, right? Good thing we don’t have to worry about them… bacteria are much braver.

War of the Worlds, look familiar?

War of the World alien invaders, look familiar?


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