AAT Bioquest

What are the differences between DNA viruses and RNA viruses?

Posted January 26, 2023


Basis of differentiation 

DNA viruses

RNA viruses


Are viruses whose genetic information is stored in the form of DNA

Are viruses whose genetic information is stored in the form of RNA


Genetic material consists of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) 

Genetic material consists of ribonucleic acid (RNA)

Double-stranded/Single-stranded DNA/ RNA

- Two types: double-stranded DNA and single-stranded DNA viruses 

- Double stranded DNA viruses are more common 

- Two types: double-stranded RNA and single-stranded RNA

- Single-stranded RNA viruses are more common 

Size of genome

Comparatively larger genome size

Comparatively smaller genome size

Mutation rate

Lower mutation rate

Higher mutation rate


More stable because of the lower mutation rate  

Unstable because of the higher mutation rate.


Usually assembled in the nucleus

Assembled in the cytoplasm


Replicated inside the host cell’s nucleus

First transcribed and then replicated in the cytoplasm

Accuracy of replication 

Shows accurate replication

Shows error-prone replication


The procapsid contains the newly-synthesized viral DNA 


Procapsid is not formed 

Protein Synthesis


Viral DNA is first transcribed into RNA, and mRNA is then translated into viral proteins

RNA viruses already contain RNA in the genome and can hence bypass transcription during protein synthesis

Baltimore classification types 

Included in groups Ⅰ, Ⅱ, and Ⅶ of the Baltimore classification

Included in groups Ⅲ, Ⅳ, Ⅴ, and Ⅵ of the Baltimore classification


Herpesviruses, Adenoviruses, Poxviruses, Hepadnaviruses, and Papillomaviruses 

Retroviruses, Reoviruses, Picornaviruses, Togaviruses, and Orthomyxoviruses

Diseases caused

Chickenpox, herpes, and smallpox

Influenza, the common cold, Aids, polio, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, SARS, measles, and West Nile fever

Additional resources

Moisture modulates soil reservoirs of active DNA and RNA viruses

Covidyte™ EN450