Polio, Foot and Mouth Disease, and Hepatitis A: The Picornaviridae Virus Family

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Viruses of the Picornaviridae family have single-stranded RNA genomes and cause many diseases. Explore the Picornaviridae virus family's structure and transmission, and diseases it causes: common cold, polio, foot and mouth disease, and Hepatitis A. Updated: 09/20/2021

The Picornaviridae Virus Family

If I was a scientist and either lacked creativity or, instead, wanted to be as straightforward as possible, then there would be absolutely no better name to come up with for a virus family than the name of 'Picornaviridae.' That's because Pico implies that something is small, rna references the RNA genome these viruses have, and viridae implies a virus family. So, we literally have a small RNA virus family, or Picornaviridae.

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  • 0:05 The Picornaviridae…
  • 0:39 Picornaviridae…
  • 1:30 The Common Cold and Polio
  • 3:48 Foot and Mouth Disease…
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Picornaviridae Structure and Transmission

That sort of ruins the surprise I had about telling you how this family of viruses has a small, positive sense, single stranded RNA genome. But, I highly doubt too many of you are crying about it right now. In any case, this genome is surrounded by an icosahedrally-shaped capsid that is not surrounded by an envelope. This makes for a relatively stable virus, or a virus that isn't as easily killed by temperature extremes or disinfectants when compared to an enveloped virus.

Viruses in this family are typically spread through the horizontal transmission method. This means they utilize respiratory means, such as a cough or sneeze, or by way of things contaminated with virus-infected feces, to spread about.

The Common Cold and Polio

Regardless of the fact that the virus family is so small in size, it actually hides a gigantic secret. This family contains viruses called rhinoviruses, which are the most common type of virus that affects humans and is the major cause of the common cold. Now you never have to wonder ever again what virus causes you yearly misery and makes you spend lots of money on vitamin C pills. It's the rhinovirus.

Let's face it, even though it's common, the common cold is a pretty paltry little disease, compared to another disease caused by the poliovirus. This is a virus that is responsible for causing the disease polio, which results in crippling and deadly neurological conditions.

Most people infected with this virus have no symptoms whatsoever. However, in 1% of cases, paralysis of the legs may occur. When a leg is paralyzed, it becomes unusable. An unusable leg suffers from muscle atrophy, or decrease in muscle mass, because your muscles slowly deflate if they cannot be used. However, polio doesn't stop there, as it can cause deadly respiratory failure in those affected with the paralytic form of polio.

Despite the terrible nature of polio, this disease has quite the colorful history. In fact, it's been traced to at least the Egyptian times, where paintings depicted people affected by polio's crippling effects on the legs. In addition, this disease affected the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, who was unable to walk or stand without support - all because of polio.

Roosevelt wasn't alone, as polio used to affect over 30,000 people in the U.S. until a brilliant man came around.

This man was Jonas Salk, and he was an American virologist who developed the first polio vaccine. His work led to the virtual eradication of polio in developed nations and a 99% reduction of diagnosed cases worldwide.

Foot and Mouth Disease and Hepatitis A

Thankfully, another disease caused by a virus in the Picornaviridae family, called hepatitis A , has a vaccine for it as well. Hepatitis A is a disease caused by the hepatitis A virus that causes a loss of appetite, jaundice, dark urine, and many other signs. Unlike hepatitis B and C, hepatitis A usually doesn't cause long-term consequences, such as cirrhosis, cancer, or liver failure and usually doesn't require much treatment as it clears up on its own. If you want to describe it this way, hepatitis A is the 'good' form of hepatitis compared to hepatitis B and C, which have far more serious long-term consequences in some people.

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