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The fundamental process of viral infection is the viral replicative cycle. The cellular response to that infection may range from no apparent effect to cytopathology with accompanying cell death to hyperplasia or cancer.

Viral disease is some harmful abnormality that results from viral infection of the host organism. Clinical disease in a host consists of overt signs and symptoms. A syndrome is a specific group of signs and symptoms. Viral infections that fail to produce any symptoms in the host are said to be inapparent (subclinical). In fact, most viral infections do not result in the production of disease (Figure 30-1).


Types of host and cellular responses to virus infection. (Modified with permission from Evans AS: Epidemiological concepts. In Evans AS, Brachman PS [editors]: Bacterial Infections of Humans, 3rd ed. Plenum, 1998. With kind permission of Springer Science+Business Media.)

Important principles that pertain to viral disease include the following: (1) many viral infections are subclinical; (2) the same disease syndrome may be produced by a variety of viruses; (3) the same virus may produce a variety of diseases; and (4) the outcome in any particular case is determined by both viral and host factors and is influenced by the environmental context and genetics of each.

Viral pathogenesis is the process that occurs when a virus infects a cell and causes cellular changes. Disease pathogenesis is a subset of events during an infection that results in disease manifestation in the host. A virus is pathogenic for a particular host if it can infect and cause signs of disease in that host. A strain of a certain virus is more virulent than another strain if it commonly produces more severe disease in a susceptible host. Viral virulence in intact animals is not necessarily related to cytopathogenicity for cultured cells; viruses highly cytocidal in vitro may be harmless in vivo, and, conversely, noncytocidal viruses may cause severe disease.

Important features of two general categories of acute viral diseases (local, systemic) are compared in Table 30-1.

TABLE 30-1Important Features of Acute Viral Diseases


To produce disease, viruses must enter a host, come in contact with susceptible cells, replicate, and produce cellular injury. Understanding mechanisms of viral pathogenesis at the molecular level is necessary to design effective antiviral strategies. Much of our ...

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