HIV particles, computer artwork. HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The outer layer of the virus particle is a membrane envelope (not seen), made from the membrane of the host cell in which it developed. This has been removed to reveal the icosahedral matrix layer (green), which surrounds the inner ribonucleic acid (RNA) genome. Surface knobs (purple) allow the virus particle to attach to host cells. The red spikes are additional surface proteins. HIV attacks lymphocyte white blood cells, which play an important role in the immune system. This severely impairs the immune system, allowing normally harmless infections to become life threatening.
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