Difference Between Adenovirus and Retrovirus

Viruses are widely regarded as the plague of humanity’s existence. This is because viruses have previously been known to wipe out entire towns or populations. Many people should remember or even have heard of some big tragedies like the black plague or even the smallpox scare, both of which resulted in a large number of deaths and many of the world’s assets got destroyed. Many of the families got affected by these big tragedies caused due to viruses. SARS has recently caused concern in several countries.

Adenovirus vs Retrovirus

The main difference between Adenovirus and Retrovirus depends on whether or not the envelope is present. Adenoviruses are viruses that do not have an envelope, whereas retroviruses are enclosed viruses. Adenoviruses are non-enveloped viruses, which means they don’t have a protective layer. A retrovirus is an enclosed virus, making it more resilient and increasing infection risk or sickness.

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Among the non-enveloped viruses, adenovirus is the most common. This word refers to the lack of a protective protein coating, known as capsids, around the genomic stored information within the virus. The DNA of this virus is double. This virus is the cause of roughly 10% of respiratory infections in both children and adults.

An enveloped virus, on the other hand, is something like a retrovirus. It possesses a protective protein covering in this case, which makes it more resilient and much more likely to cause disease. It is classified as an RNA virus that can integrate into its host cells and cause cell harm.

Comparison Table Between Adenovirus and Retrovirus

Parameters of ComparisonAdenovirusRetrovirus
EnvelopeThe envelope is absent in the adenovirus.An envelope is present in retrovirus.
DiameterThe diameter of adenovirus is around 70-90 nm.The diameter of a retrovirus is around 80-130 nm.
PolymeraseThe adenovirus contains negative virion polymerase.The retrovirus contains positive virion polymerase.
GenomeThe adenovirus has DNA based genome.The retrovirus has RNA based genome.
InfectionThe adenovirus can infect both dividing and non-dividing cells.The retrovirus can infect only dividing cells.

What is Adenovirus?

Adenoviruses are non-enveloped viruses that belong to the virus family. They are basic human infections, but some of them can infect animals as well. Mastadenoviruses & Aviadenoviruses are the two primary species of the adenovirus group. Humans and mammals are infected by Mastadenovirus, while birds are infected by Aviadenovirus.

The lack of a viral envelope is an adenovirus’s distinguishing structural trait. They are generally icosahedral in form, and their genetic material is double-stranded DNA. A protein core contains the genetic content. The icosahedral protein shell is made up of 252 structural capsomere proteins and measures 70–100 nm in size. The minor polypeptide components, which make up the icosahedral shell, contain additional small proteins.

When the viral genetic content enters the human cell, the adenovirus multiplies or proliferates within the cell. Following the injection of genetic information into the cell, the viral DNA is copied using host transcription machinery to produce adenoviral mRNA, which is then followed by the specified proteins.

Finally, the new viral particles are formed and discharged, allowing them to infect a greater number of cells. Adenovirus infections are mostly associated with respiratory and conjunctival disorders. The adenovirus is transmitted through droplets in the air, and adenoviral infections are diagnosed using immunological and molecular biology testing. In immune-compromised individuals, symptoms such as fever and other secondary infections may appear.

What is Retrovirus?

Retroviruses are enveloped viruses that belong to the retrovirus family. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome, is one of the most frequent retroviruses that infect humans globally (AIDS). This virus is slightly bigger in diameter in comparison to Adenovirus.

The virus has a single-stranded Genetic code that is positive. Retroviruses have genes responsible for the Reverse transcriptase enzyme, which is an RNA-dependent DNA polymerase. Reverse transcription converts RNA to complementary DNA (cDNA) using an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. The replication of the viral particles will be initiated by the cDNA generated from the genetic element within the host cell. Retroviruses have a conspicuous envelope that houses the gene of the particle, as well as a capsid and an inner core.

Retroviruses could be passed from person to person or animal to animal by immediate communication. Oncovirus, Lentivirus, and Spumavirus are the 3 retrovirus families. Oncoviruses are viruses that are responsible for the development of malignancies. Lentiviruses are viruses that cause fatal infectious illnesses, whereas Spumavirus is termed from the prominent spikes that radiate from the envelope. Feline leukemia or sarcoma, caprine arthritis encephalitis, adult human cell leukemia, and other disorders are linked to retroviral infection.

Main Differences Between Adenovirus and Retrovirus

  1. In Adenovirus a collection of DNA viruses that have been found and are responsible for the majority of respiratory ailments, whereas Retrovirus refers to a set of RNA viruses that insert their genomic copy into the host cell and multiplicate themselves.
  2. Adenovirus genomes contain double-stranded DNA, whereas Retrovirus genomes contain single-stranded RNA.
  3. Adenovirus is a bare virus that does not have an envelope, whereas Retrovirus does.
  4. Adenovirus is slightly smaller in size as compared to Retrovirus with a diameter of 70-90nm whereas Retrovirus has an approximate diameter of 80-130 nm.
  5. Adenovirus has the potential of infecting both dividing & non-dividing cells whereas Retrovirus can only infect the living cells.


Viruses are contagious particles that attack particular hosts, which is why they are known as obligatory parasites. Adenoviruses and Retroviruses are two types of viruses that are classified depending on whether or not they have an envelope. A retrovirus is indeed a virus group that has an envelope, while adenovirus is a virus species that does not have an envelope.

The genotype of adenovirus is double DNA, whereas the genome of retroviruses such as HIV is single-stranded RNA. With the help of the enzyme reverse transcriptase, retroviruses undergo reverse transcription to make cDNA. The distinction between adenovirus and retrovirus is this.


  1. https://europepmc.org/article/med/10510594
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/3300846
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