A retrovirus was a biological particle that infects cells. It reproduced itself by converting its RNA to DNA and incorporating that code into its host cell's genome. The host cell then produced more copies of the retrovirus, possibly leading to its destruction.
Retroviruses could be used as a vector to introduce foreign genes into a cell. The Taresians used retroviruses to transform males from other species into Taresians for mating purposes. (VOY: "Favorite Son")
In an illusory future (set in 2383), Beverly Crusher described Will Riker's memory loss as the result of Altarian encephalitis, a retrovirus. This later proved to be, seemingly, part of the Romulan equivalent of a holoprogram. (TNG: "Future Imperfect")