Spillover: Zika, Ebola & Beyond

Click and drag or use the buttons below to move the model.

The proteins that make up the helical capsid structure of the virus are shown.

TMV Cross Section

A. Coat protein; B. RNA genome

Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV)

  • Virgaviridae family
  • ~18-nm × 300-nm naked helical particles
  • Linear, ss + RNA genome of ~6,500 bp
  • Infects the tobacco plant and related kinds of plants

Show Relative Size

Tobacco mosaic virus was the first virus to ever be identified and described. Its name comes from the mosaic-like mottling it causes in the leaves of infected plants. The studies surrounding the filtering and purification of the virus in the late 1800s, followed by the characterization of the virus in the early 1900s, laid the foundations for the field of virology. Today, many plants have been genetically modified to resist infection by TMV.


Relative Sizes

Chart showing size comparison of different viruses.

The white line represents 100 nanometers (nm). For comparison, the width of a human hair is about 75,000 nm, so it would be 750 times as long!