Difference Between Virus and Prion

Virus vs Prion

Infectious diseases are caused by pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, and. These pathogens are organisms made up of a large number of proteins. However, there has been a discovery of a pathogen that lies beyond our understanding of pathogens. These are called prions that are single proteins but have the capacity to wreck havoc on brain cells of an individual. Prions have many similarities with viruses which is what confuses people. However, there are differences that separate these pathogens. This article will highlight these differences.

Though both viruses and prions appear as living beings, they are non living things. They are actually small parasites that need cells of living things to grow and reproduce.


Viruses are made up of proteins and nucleic acid and lipids. These nucleic acids (RNA and DNA) contain the genetic code that helps these viruses to grow and reproduce once they find their way into a living organism. The nucleic acid remains covered in a protective covering called capsid. Before invading a living thing, viruses are in extracellular form and are known as virions. These virons, once they find a host cell transform into an intracellular form when the capsid gets removed and only nucleic acid remains. Viruses take help of the building materials of the host to grow and reproduce.


Prions are pathogens discovered by Stanley Prusiner. These are infectious agents that cause many neurodegenerative diseases such as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. Surprisingly, prions are made up of harmless proteins that are found in mammals and birds. But these proteins are in abnormal form and once they enter human brain, they are capable of severe brain infections. Normally these prions are ingested but they also get formed through mutation of a gene that contains this protein. One thing that seperates them from viruses is that they lack nucleic acids (RNA and DNA).

As soon as prions find their way into brain, they cause normal proteins to turn into abnormal ones. They soon multiply causing severe infection. Holes appear inside the brain that can only be treated by incineration. Some of the diseases caused by prions are Mad Cow Disease, Scrapie (found in sheep and goat), and Creutz-Jakob disease.

Virus vs Prion

• Viruses and prions are pathogens that cause infections.

• There are many similarities in viruses and prions

• While viruses are made up of proteins and nucleic acids, prions lack in genetic code (nucleic acids)

• Viruses cause lots of diseases while prions have been know to cause brain diseases only.

  • Ajayi Mojisola

    Thanks for helping out, just what I needed