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LostInParadise's avatar

Do we need a word for a single virus cell?

Asked by LostInParadise (29658points) April 12th, 2020
5 responses
“Great Question” (0points)

One bacteria cell is a bacterium. There does not seem to be a word for a single virus cell, unless virus can also refer to a single cell. I checked on “virum”, but there is no such word. On the other hand “viruses” refers to different types of virus. There does not seem to be an analogous word for bacteria.

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Tropical_Willie's avatar

The entire infectious virus particle, called a virion, consists of the nucleic acid and an outer shell of protein, – - – Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky SL, et al.
New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000.

seawulf575's avatar

Maybe we could look at it like cactus. A single plant is a cactus, multiples are cacti. Maybe a single cell is a virus, multiples are viri.

gorillapaws's avatar

I’m pretty sure the problem you’re having in searching for the word is that a virus has exactly zero cells. It’s not alive.

Demosthenes's avatar

The term virion is used to refer to a particle of a virus and is the viral equivalent of a cell. But @gorillapaws is right that viruses are not cells and are not made up of cells, therefore scientists do not consider them to be “alive”, despite them having DNA and proteins, like cells.

@seawulf575 Interestingly, the Latin word “vīrus” (meaning “poison” or “venom”), from which our word is borrowed, never had a plural. If it did, the plural would’ve been “vīrī”.

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