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A virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of an organism. viruses can infect all types of organisms, from animals and plants to bacteria and archaea. since dmitri ivanovsky's 1892 article describing a non-bacterial pathogen infecting tobacco plants, and the discovery of the tobacco mosaic virus by martinus beijerinck in 1898, about 5,000 viruses have been described in detail, although there are millions of different types.