Are Viruses Living?

9 June 2004

Let’s first define life. According to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, life is “an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction.”

Viruses are not living things. Viruses are complicated assemblies of molecules, including proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and carbohydrates, but on their own they can do nothing until they enter a living cell. Without cells, viruses would not be able to multiply. Therefore, viruses are not living things.

When a virus encounters a cell, a series of chemical reactions occur that lead to the production of new viruses. These steps are completely passive, that is, they are predefined by the nature of the molecules that comprise the virus particle. Viruses don’t actually ‘do’ anything. Often scientists and non-scientists alike ascribe actions to viruses such as employing, displaying, destroying, evading, exploiting, and so on. These terms are incorrect because viruses are passive, completely at the mercy of their environment.

  • carl higgins

    omg!!!!!!!!!! same with me and mine we love them so much

  • littlekidwhoknowsnothing

    whhat do you mean

  • Dustin

    is a viruses a cell

  • Dustin

    hi

  • Franklin

    i like sex

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    i like sex
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  • :/

    Awkward

  • Wow

    I found this source interesting

  • KP

    If the sum of past and future generations of viruses were to see this post which declared them not only to be dead but to have never lived in the first place, the anger and turmoil that will run through the rivers of veins inside the body of the virus will culminate into a highly evolved creature that would strike the deepest of fears in the depths of the souls of even the most courageous and bravest of humaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaans

  • Jesse

    What about evidence that shows their living

  • Jj

    Bla…

  • Classify

    According to the same dictionary you used, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a virus is classified as a living thing: “an extremely small living thing that causes a disease and that spreads from one person or animal to another”

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  • christian

    yes i would want too LEO not wiggley

  • christian

    all night long

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  • awesome me

    thanks for doing my homework

  • Tyler myatt

    thanks

  • ryan

    thank you you just answerd everything i needed to know lol

  • S

    Can they be dead if they were never alive?

  • Candy Opal Calli.

    This helps with my homework! Thanks!

  • Christine

    The only thing I can come up with to describe them simply is “living dead”, corny as that sounds. :)

  • Far Jason

    What is your point???

  • mickwavey

    im still confused

  • deedum

    I would say viruses are not living, since their only purpose is to spread, and reproduce using a living cell as a medium,

  • Melih_2211

    Thanks for your explimination Tony!
    This helped me with my homework! :D

  • ryan

    Well really I think viruses are living based on the fact that they have a drive. what non living thing do you know what has a drive to live and reproduce? And i think viruses prove the character

  • ryan

    Of a living organism wrong

  • BURN

    Humans without earth would not be able to multiply. Therefore, humans are not living things…

  • Mr. Rhenium

    Viruses- think of it this way: it is literally just “poison” its just RNA that messes up your cells that causes them to make more of this false “RNA” like poison,it is NOT living and all it does is just exists until it encounters a living thing….The symptoms you get from them is almost exactly like a chemical reaction.

  • http://yahoo.com Brown Juniour Kartel

    although they can reproduce they do not carry out all seven characteristics of life and all viruses are parasitic and do not have a metabolism of their own

  • Candy floss

    This helped with my homework☺️

  • Candy floss

    Actually it didn’t😳

  • BioDroid

    So a virus is basically a robot form of microbe?

  • Adam Hancock

    So when a virus is in a host cell is it … now considered alive?

  • carsond

    HOST as in another organism that the parasite can not live without and typically lives inside of. It is one thing to eat another organism, it is a different thing to feed off of it as a parasite. Humans can reproduce without the help of other species. True, we depend on another human to reproduce, but that is not parasitism. If we depended on another species to reproduce and negatively affected it, that would be parasitism. Like if humans layed eggs inside of dogs, and when the eggs hatched, the baby humans ate the dog from the inside out, like some species of bugs. The Earth is not an organism, and therefore using it’s resources is not parasitism.

  • evolutionxx

    but every living this is also subject to its environment?

  • Viktor Kuznetsov

    but…virus has energy to act and to attack…so it looks like an other form of life we know nothing about

  • charos

    people using metaphors in the comments to make a comparison, you’re in the wrong site. This is science, not a philosophy class. Stick to the facts . I’m sure that most of you don’t even know how a cell works, so quit posting retarded comments.

  • lilly

    thnx this really helped me with my home work if its possible can you wright where you get the evidence from and explain how scientists use these evidence im only 12 so please write it in simple form :D tysm

  • rahul basavaraj

    i finished my homework and understood the concept.

  • Cody

    As much as I’d like to agree with you, where your argument has a flaw is the fact that there are many things that have a drive or self operated functionality that are not living. A computer is a perfect example. It’s all man made components, most synthetic or engineered in some way. These pieces at their most basic levels are comprised of elements and other materials. Computers do not need sustenance (food, water), sleep, they do not grow, and so on. They exhibit none of the 7 characteristics of a living organism, yet, once built, a computer (w/ OS) functions completely on it’s own; executing services and background programs and running them by itself.

    It may not seems like a fair comparison to use something completely man made to something that is natural, however the same principle applies. The fact that something can self-exist and function individually without having any of the 7 signs of life proves that it’s possible for something to have a “drive” as you say, without being alive. There are man made viruses as well I might add