Viruses: The facts laid out at U3A

STILL IN THE GAME: Retired lecturer on Virology Len Steinhardt gave an eye-opening lecture on Viruses at the University of the Third Age last week, which he referred to as being “virology 101”. Picture: Ronnie Steinhardt

THE University of the Third Age (U3A) once more hosted retired Electro-Microbiology and Virology specialist, Lenard Steinhardt, who presented a lecture on Viruses last week Thursday.

Steinhardt, who retired in 2005 from his lecturing post at the Durban University of Technology, delivered a riveting lecture on viruses: what they are, whether they are ‘alive’ or not, their process of replication and what they look like.

“The basis of life on earth is cellular, yet viruses are not cells at all” Steinhardt at some point explained. “What are viruses? Are they alive?

“When I was working,” Steinhardt continued, “I found people who aren’t in the field tend to confuse bacterial infections with viruses because virology is such a young science, and our generation was raised learning more about bacteria, historically speaking.”

Steinhardt spoke on the six degrees in the replication process of viruses. The first is that they attach to the cell identified as weak by the virus. Second, the virus penetrates the cell, leading into the third process of “uncoating” as the host cell’s own body breaks down to accommodate the virus. Biosynthesis is the fourth step, where the virus’s genes “take-over” parasitically, resulting in the fifth degree known as “Assembly”, when daughter virus cells gather in clusters within the host cell, leading to the release of the virus into the whole body of the infected person. This is a very fast process.

“It takes 20 mins to release,” said Steinhardt.

Full story in this week’s Talk of the Town

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