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The Viruses: Introduction and General Characteristics

Viruses are generally small, acellular entities that usually possess only a single type of nucleic acid and that must use the metabolic machinery of a living host in order to reproduce. Viruses have been and continue to be of tremendous importance for a variety of reasons: many human diseases have a viral etiology; the study of viruses has contributed greatly to our knowledge of molecular biology; and the blossoming field of genetic engineering is based on discoveries in the field of virology. This chapter focuses on the general properties of viruses, the development of the science of virology, and the methodology used to study viruses.

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