1.4 How Do Infectious Organisms Replicate or Produce Progeny?

Different infectious agents have different modes of reproduction. This plays a huge role in how they behave as infectious agents and impacts the treatment for the diseases they cause.

Most infectious agents divide and replicate by two common methods: asexual and sexual reproduction.

Bacteria usually reproduce through an asexual process called binary fission, in which one single cell divides and creates two identical cells. Bacteria are living organisms, and they can reproduce within or without a human host.

Fungi also reproduce asexually with a few rare exceptions. They usually form spores to reproduce; however, some forms of fungi reproduce through fragmentation, binary fission, or budding – a process in which a daughter cell is created by an enlarged parent cell.

Similar to fungi, parasites mostly reproduce asexually. However, some parasites reproduce sexually and can even reproduce with another parasitic species through a process called hybridization. This occurs in schistosome flatworms, for example, where bovine infecting parasite reproduces with humans infecting parasites.

Viruses, on the other hand, need a living organism to reproduce. They are activated once they infect a host and then use the hosts metabolic or reproductive system to replicate. Viruses have two kinds of reproduction methods: the lytic and lysogenic cycles.

The lytic cycle involves the virus entering a host and injecting its DNA into the hosts cell. Using the metabolism of the hosts cell, the virus makes its proteins and replicates. The host cell is broken at the end of this process.

The lysogenic cycle involves replicating the virus once the host cell replicates itself, which does not involve cell breaking. In this process, the viruss DNA is spread throughout the host.

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