Чем прионы отличаются от вирусов?


Prions and viruses are both infectious agents that can cause diseases. However, they differ in their structural composition, replication mechanisms, and modes of transmission. In this article, we will explore the various aspects that distinguish prions from viruses.

1. Structural Composition

Prions are composed solely of misfolded proteins, specifically the prion protein (PrP). These misfolded proteins have a unique conformation that is able to induce normal proteins to adopt the same misfolded shape, leading to the propagation of prions. On the other hand, viruses consist of genetic material (DNA or RNA) enclosed in a protein coat called a capsid. Some viruses may also have an outer envelope derived from the host cell membrane.

1.1 Prions

Prions are formed when the normal cellular prion protein (PrPC) undergoes a conformational change to the disease-associated isoform (PrPSc). This misfolded protein is extremely stable and resistant to denaturation by heat, radiation, or enzymes. The accumulation of PrPSc in the brain results in neurodegenerative diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

1.2 Viruses

Viruses can have different shapes, including helical, icosahedral, or complex structures. The capsid protects the viral genetic material, and in some cases, the envelope helps the virus evade the host immune system. Examples of viruses include influenza virus, HIV, and SARS-CoV-2.

2. Replication Mechanism

The replication mechanisms of prions and viruses are fundamentally different.

2.1 Prions

Prions do not possess genetic material and cannot replicate in the traditional sense. The conversion of PrPC to PrPSc occurs when the misfolded protein comes into contact with the normal protein, inducing it to change its conformation. This template-directed conversion leads to the generation of more PrPSc molecules.

2.2 Viruses

Viruses require a host cell to replicate. They invade host cells and hijack their machinery to produce viral proteins and replicate their genetic material. The replicated viral components then assemble to form new virus particles, which can go on to infect other cells or individuals.

3. Transmission

The modes of transmission differ significantly between prions and viruses.

3.1 Prions

Prions can be transmitted through ingestion of contaminated tissues (e.g., eating contaminated meat), direct contact with infected individuals, or exposure to contaminated medical instruments. They can also be transmitted vertically from parent to offspring.

3.2 Viruses

Viruses can be transmitted through various routes, including respiratory droplets, ingestion of contaminated food or water, sexual contact, or blood transfusion. Some viruses, like influenza and COVID-19, can spread easily through respiratory droplets from infected individuals.

4. Diseases Associated

Prions and viruses are associated with distinct diseases.

4.1 Prions

Prions are responsible for several neurodegenerative diseases, including:

  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
  • Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)
  • Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome (GSS)
  • Fatal familial insomnia (FFI)

4.2 Viruses

Viruses cause a wide range of diseases, including:

  • Influenza
  • COVID-19
  • Hepatitis
  • Measles
  • Polio
  • Herpes

5. Detection and Diagnosis

5.1 Prions

Prion diseases are challenging to diagnose due to their long incubation periods and nonspecific symptoms. Diagnosis is often confirmed through brain biopsy or post-mortem examination. Additionally, techniques such as protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) and real-time quaking-induced conversion (RT-QuIC) can detect PrPSc in cerebrospinal fluid or tissue samples.

5.2 Viruses

Viral infections can be diagnosed through various methods, including:

  • PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) to detect viral genetic material
  • Serological tests to detect antibodies against the virus
  • Culture techniques to isolate and grow the virus

6. Treatment and Prevention

6.1 Prions

Currently, there is no specific treatment available for prion diseases. Management involves supportive care to alleviate symptoms and maintain quality of life. Prevention mainly focuses on implementing strict measures to prevent the transmission of prions, such as avoiding consumption of contaminated tissues and ensuring proper sterilization of medical instruments.

6.2 Viruses

Treatment for viral infections depends on the specific virus and may include antiviral medications, vaccines, or supportive care. Prevention strategies include vaccination, practicing good hygiene, and implementing public health measures to control the spread of viruses.

7. Research and Scientific Studies

Scientists continue to study prions and viruses to better understand their mechanisms, develop diagnostic tools, and explore potential therapeutic interventions. Ongoing research aims to uncover the mysteries surrounding prion propagation and identify effective antiviral strategies.

8. Conclusion

In summary, prions and viruses differ in their structural composition, replication mechanisms, transmission modes, associated diseases, detection, and treatment. Prions are composed of misfolded proteins and propagate by inducing conformational changes in normal proteins. Viruses, on the other hand, consist of genetic material enclosed in a protein coat and rely on host cells for replication. Understanding these differences is crucial in developing strategies to combat prion and viral diseases.


1. Can prions infect plants?

No, prions are unique to animals and humans and have not been found to infect plants.

2. Are prion diseases hereditary?

Some prion diseases have a genetic component, such as familial forms of CJD. However, most prion diseases occur sporadically without a clear genetic cause.

3. Can viruses mutate like prions?

Viruses can undergo genetic mutations, which contribute to their ability to evolve and adapt to new environments. However, the mutation mechanisms differ from those of prions.

4. Are all prion diseases fatal?

Yes, currently, all known prion diseases are incurable and ultimately fatal.

5. Can prion diseases be transmitted through the air?

No, prion diseases are not known to be transmitted through respiratory droplets or airborne particles.

6. Are there any vaccines available for prion diseases?

No, there are currently no vaccines available for prion diseases.

7. How long can prions survive outside a host?

Prions are exceptionally resistant to environmental degradation and can remain infectious for extended periods. They can survive in soil or contaminated materials for several years.

8. Can viruses cause prion diseases?

No, viruses and prions are distinct infectious agents with different mechanisms of action. Viruses do not cause the formation of prions.

9. Can prions be destroyed by heat?

Prions are highly resistant to heat and can withstand temperatures that would typically denature proteins. Specialized procedures, such as autoclaving at high temperatures and pressure, are required to effectively inactivate prions.

10. Are there any known cases of prion diseases being cured?

To date, there are no documented cases of a complete cure for prion diseases. Treatment options are limited to managing symptoms and providing supportive care.


Prions and viruses are fascinating entities with unique properties and impacts on human health. Understanding their differences and the diseases they cause is crucial for effective disease prevention and management. Ongoing research and advancements in diagnostic techniques hold promise for the development of targeted treatments in the future.

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