Virus ultrastructure


A collection of images taken from my files

Dr Linda Stannard

I spy, with my little eye!

After many, many years of peering at virus particles through the electron microscope, I have still not ceased to be amazed and excited by the precision and intricacy of design in something so very, very small. "How small is that?" you may ask. Well, knowing that viruses range in size from 20 to 300 nanometers (nm) is not always enough to gain a real perception of their minute size - I find it equally difficult to perceive cosmic distances quoted in light years. So let's create a relative picture:


Viruses on a pinhead

The head of a dress-maker's pin can provide seating accommodation for five hundred million rhinoviruses (cause of the common cold) !


Be warned!. One sneeze can generate an aerosol of enough cold viruses to infect an entire regiment!

This page is designed primarily as an introductory manual for students of virology,

but anyone who is interested is invited to take a brief "peep" at some of the inhabitants of the microbial Lilliput Land.

For a better understanding of the electron micrographs, you might like to read this first - Principles of virus architecture
Electron microscopy: How images are created by negative staining
Electron microscopy images of:

  • DNA-containing viruses
  • RNA-containing viruses


© Copyright Dr Linda M Stannard, 1995

This page was written by Dr Linda Stannard, on behalf of the Division of Medical Virology, UCT.

In Memory of Dr Linda Stannard, 10 May 1942 - 17 October 2016

For re-use of and queries about Dr Stannard's images, please contact Dr Stephen Korsman at

Recipient of Key Resource Award

Key Resource Award