A virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of an organism. Viruses can infect all types of life forms, from animals and plants to microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea.

Most viruses are harmless to their hosts, but some can cause disease. The study of viruses is known as virology, which is a subfield of microbiology. Virologists investigate the biology of viruses and their interaction with host cells. They also work to develop vaccines against viral diseases.

Viruses are tiny particles—much smaller than bacteria—that contain genetic material (DNA or RNA) surrounded by a protein coat. When they infect an organism, they insert their genetic material into the host’s cells and use those cells to produce more copies of themselves.

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