Viruses 101: We Bet You Didn’t Know These Viral Facts

Viruses are practically invisible to the naked eye, but a type of it has the population of nearly 7 billion sitting quietly in their homes, social-distancing from each other. A large portion of the world today is in lock down, thanks to a very, very, very tiny thing called the coronavirus. While it’s easy to detest this virus at the moment, doesn’t it intrigue you that something so small has the capacity to wreck such havoc across the globe? We sure do. Here are 10 really cool and interesting facts about these living/non-living (still debatable) creatures–

(Oh, before you start reading, consider washing your hands with soap for 20 seconds. We’ll wait for you.)

Done? Alright, here we go!

  1. The first human virus, yellow fever virus, was discovered by Walter Reed in 1901.
  2. The name virus was coined from the Latin word meaning slimy liquid or poison.
  3. There are a million virus particles per milliliter of seawater – for a global total of 1030 virions! And you know why that’s interesting? Lined up end to end, these virions would stretch 200 million light years into space. Crazy, right?!
  4. Another cool correlation between viruses and space – The HIV-1 genome, which is about 10,000 nucleotides long, can exist as 106020 different sequences. To put this number in perspective, there are 1011 stars in the Milky Way galaxy and 1080 protons in the universe. Mind = blown!
  5. The smallest known viruses are circoviruses, which are 20 nanometers (0.00002 millimeters) in diameter. On the contrary (and rather ironically), the biggest known viruses are mimiviruses, which are 400 nanometers (0.0004 millimeters) in diameter.
  6. Viruses are so simple that it is possible to assemble one “from scratch” in the lab, using just a few components. They have a simple recipe: Mix a purified protein and purified nucleic genome in water under the right conditions for salt, acidity, and temperature. In time, these components will spontaneously organize into infectious virus particles!
  7. 50% of all human DNA originally came from viruses, which infected and embedded themselves in our ancestors’ egg and sperm cells. Don’t worry, most of these are now extinct.
  8. Fossils of Cyanobacteria are kept in 3.2 billion-year-old rock in the Palaeobotany Institute of Lucknow. Add this to your travel wishlist.
  9. Numerous bacteriophages are present in the water of river Ganga. They destroy the pathogenic bacteria present in the polluted water of the river keeping it pure by working as a scavenger. 
  10. The viral relics found in our genomes are believed to be the reason why we are immune to certain diseases. This includes certain cancer viruses as well.

What a truly magnificent world we live in! Researchers continue to learn more about viruses in the lab and to develop tools to fight them. Not all of them are bad, but we’re still learning to identify the good ones. Considering their size and mysterious, it looks like we’ll be studying them for a long time!

(If you’ve scrolled down till here, please wash your hands again!)


1. Ten cool facts about viruses. Available at: Accessed on 26 March 2020.

2. Five Intriguing Facts About Viruses. Available at: Accessed on 26 March 2020.

3. 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Viruses. Available at: Accessed on 26 March 2020.

4. 15 Unknown facts about Viruses. Available at: Accessed on 26 March 2020.5. Virus Facts. Available at: Accessed on 26 March 2020.