Most Viral Host Ranges Are Narrow

The surface of a virion contains many copies of one type of protein that binds specifically to multiple copies of a receptor protein on a host cell. This interaction determines the host range—the group of cell types that a virus can infect—and begins the infection process. Most viruses have a rather limited host range.

A virus that infects only bacteria is called a bacterio-phage, or simply a phage. Viruses that infect animal or plant cells are referred to generally as animal viruses or plant viruses. A few viruses can grow in both plants and the insects that feed on them. The highly mobile insects serve as vectors for transferring such viruses between susceptible plant hosts. Wide host ranges are also characteristic of some strictly ani mal viruses, such as vesicular stomatitis virus, which grows in insect vectors and in many different types of mammals. Most animal viruses, however, do not cross phyla, and some (e.g., poliovirus) infect only closely related species such as primates. The host-cell range of some animal viruses is further restricted to a limited number of cell types because only these cells have appropriate surface receptors to which the virions can attach.

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