Viruses are pathogenic agents, and some of the diseases they cause have significant social and economic consequences for man. A knowledge of the mechanisms of virus multiplication at the molecular level can provide information about the disease syndrome and, perhaps, suggest the means for its control. Viruses are also useful tools for probing the molecular processes of cells. They have added greatly to our understanding of gene organization, expression and function in organisms of many taxonomic groups. Viruses are genetic elements that subvert normal cellular processes to ensure their replication and maturation as transmissible entities. Virus propagation is specified by its own genome (either DNA or RNA), but always requires the energy-generating and protein-synthesizing machinery of host cells. The virus genome is usually protected during its extracellular phase by encapsidation in a protein or lipoprotein coat.
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