Virus Explorer


Most people have heard of influenza, HIV, and rabies. Zika, human papillomavirus (HPV), and Ebola have recently made headlines. Adenovirus, T7 virus, and tobacco mosaic virus are familiar to researchers and science students. What do these viruses have in common? And how are they different?

The Virus Explorer interactive is the perfect tool to learn about these microscopic invaders that hijack the cellular machinery of living organisms. Students can explore the similarities and differences of a variety of viruses by sorting them based on structure, genomic make-up, host range, transmission mechanism, and vaccine availability. Each virus can be further examined to investigate its geographic distribution and prevalence, 3D structure, cross section, replication cycle, size, and whether it causes disease or has a vaccine against it.

With this interactive, students will gain a better understanding of viral diversity, the criteria that scientists use to classify viruses, and the global prevalence of viral infections. A link to an illustration of the relative sizes of viruses provides an opportunity to discuss scale and units.

The 3D composite models are based on published structural information. The goal of the models is to highlight the overall shape of the viruses and some of the proteins that are key to the virus structure or transmission. The cross sections provide additional information and show the structure of the capsid or core.

Abbreviations used in this interactive:

nm – nanometer
bp – base pairs
ss – single-stranded
ds – double-stranded
~ – approximately