Are Viruses Living?

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.

Update: See a more recent post for my thoughts on this question.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • YO 12 November 2015, 3:55 pm

    HTHEU

  • cdcdscs 8 December 2015, 8:31 pm

    yes viruses are alive

  • itisMe 2 January 2016, 10:58 pm

    I would like to offer up a Unique Perception,
    Please let me know if you can resonate with it. I am learning how to translate,
    observation into words of communication, Thank you for your time and energy
    ItisMe…..

    Before “Nature and Source” put together a “body form” which would enable the
    high frequencies of our ever-evolving consciousness to be contained and
    expressed through, where did “Nature and source” store their sequences of
    patterns? Could this place actually be in the Form of what we’ve come to know
    by the name of viruses?

    When we save data, we are sending energized electrons/data to the floating gate
    {DNA} to be recorded. When we delete data, we are attracting the electrons/data
    away from the floating gate.{DNA}. Isn’t this what viruses do …deliver the new
    download and take away the old one?

    I am asking “Aren’t the “Energies/Forces” that ended up being labeled…
    “Infect” and “download new information” and “upgrade
    information” actually doing the same thing,,,”EXCHANGING INFORMATION” ?

    Didn’t Nature (before our present form was developed) need a place to store the
    sequences of activity?

    Aren’t Viruses actually the memory cells of Nature employed during the
    evolutionary phases of development prior to the our Present forms ?

    For all the “forms” created before the emergence of plants,animal,
    etc… were unable at that time , to be contained within those forms,

    In other words: There seems to be an Observational Error, concerning
    “viruses”… for ( to me) they seem to be “Nature’s Memory
    Cell’s” created and used during the developmental stages in which forms
    being created at that particular time ,,,,had no ability yet to embody the
    “sequences” so viruses, being the messengers, were created to store
    these ‘sequences of data” until such time the physical form had evolved to
    the point of being able to consciously and synchronization work with them.
    Activated by the different levels of frequencies radiating from the
    “Energy Fields” {/ Belief System Structure } of each individual form,
    As Our Collective Energy Field Increases , the “Viruses each containing a
    physical representation of this “increased frequency” , are used to
    deliver the physical manifestation of these higher vibrations into the present
    DNA….unless people update their own personal “belief structure” ,
    these messages, cannot be received and thus they end up with “Static
    Energy Fields” in which the messengers coagulate until the higher
    frequency receptor cell is created to receive them .

    The Virus that the medical establishment talks to us about is not those of
    NATURE, but is in fact THEMSELVES,,{ i.e. planting and nourishing “Thought
    Viruses [memes]” throughout the generations.} nourishing and creating
    “FEAR” surrounding our very own wireless communication storage units
    i.e. “VIRUSES” and bacteria etc… They work in synchronicity with
    us,and actually existed before we became conscious of them,,,Definitely an
    OBSERVATIONAL ERR.

    Thank you for listening

  • mapartha 5 January 2016, 1:11 am

    If viruses do not have a “self-drive”, then it must be something else that is driving them, eg. Nature or God.

  • Tony 2 March 2016, 7:08 pm

    If asking questions you don’t like is spouting dogma Crawford then tough! An assumption that predefines the conclusion ? Pray what assumption would that be? That we are both dead and alive Marxists, Jesuits and fundamentalist conservatives with a political bent all at the same time! What crock – surely is that not an assumption that predefines the conclusion – your conclusion? Well you are entitled to your opinion but it hasn’t anything to do with the issues I have raised concerning viruses and virology QED.

  • Tony 2 March 2016, 7:21 pm

    I am still awaiting a reply to the questions and issues addressed to Professor Racaniello on this blog several years ago but silence appears to be the polite negative.

  • Colins 13 August 2016, 7:52 pm

    Ohhhhhhh

  • Leandro R. Jones 18 August 2016, 2:12 pm

    I think that most of the discussion of viruses being or being not “living things” is flawed by the idea that the virus is the viral particle (vp). Instead, viruses must be conceptualized as organismic states displaying a complex life cycle composed of a free-live phase (i.e. the viral particle) and a cellular phase (i.e. the processes comprised from vp adsorption to vp release the environment).

  • Maddy 20 August 2016, 3:01 pm

    thanks for answering this…helped with an essay i had to write….but could you maybe give us reasons why viruses would be alive…like characteristics that living things and viruses both share??? thanks:)

  • Max Castilan 27 August 2016, 9:54 pm

    “…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.” If that is a fact, then how about the parasites?(Specifically the ecto- ones) They need cells in living things to multiply, given that’s what they should do, because they will die off if they are not transferred correctly.

  • c 7 September 2016, 2:04 pm

    qwerty keyboard

  • c 7 September 2016, 2:05 pm

    qwerty keyboards

  • c 7 September 2016, 2:05 pm

    qwerty keyboardss

  • Alex Smith 10 September 2016, 5:01 pm

    like you

  • Aaditya Sharma 17 September 2016, 6:41 pm

    Are these virus from future ?

  • Aaditya Sharma 17 September 2016, 6:42 pm

    ??

  • Bleh 19 September 2016, 4:48 pm

    … When u dumb af

  • ??? 19 September 2016, 8:25 pm

    Thank you so much! This was very helpful!

  • maya 8 October 2016, 4:24 am

    @felixbassant how did this help u with ur home work … im doing homework and this gives me no help at all

  • Alvin Wang 12 October 2016, 3:06 am

    what do parasite have to do with virus

  • ducks 1 December 2016, 11:42 am

    I wonder if afflack is based off of ben afflack cause he is a swan

  • studying-microbiology 6 December 2016, 7:59 pm

    This information is out of date a better more up-to date site is
    https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/cells/viruses/a/are-viruses-dead-or-alive

  • Salad 14 March 2017, 1:22 am

    no. we can reproduce in a vacuum if we can remain alive for long enough. We can still do the things necessary to prove life in those situations, but obviously an animal needs its habitat to survive.

  • Kabox Brianix 26 April 2017, 3:10 am

    thanks guys , you have saved the argument

  • Yadav 29 April 2017, 9:46 am

    No,if they are dead or alive.what is the difference b/w both the words?

  • billybob123 3 May 2017, 8:27 pm

    you were my brother anakin, you were the chose one, you were meant to destroy the sith not join them!!!

  • Aidan Williams 13 June 2017, 1:12 am

    if your open minded you could think of us as viruses to the earth, just as a virus is a virus to us.. we can’t live without the earth, reproduce, grow, ect. (yet anyway)
    (there is a heap of comments ay)

  • Laurent Frazier 20 July 2017, 5:19 am

    So let me get this straight… a Virus can only actually be acted UPON? they can’t attack or take action, only react?

  • SkylerLarssonDoesStuff owo 26 September 2017, 10:13 am

    your reply gives me life

  • SkylerLarssonDoesStuff owo 26 September 2017, 10:35 am

    ew what is that thing

  • bloppy 2 November 2017, 12:53 pm

    Stimulated*

  • Victoria Vaughn 16 November 2017, 12:02 pm

    I HATE THISSSSSSSSSSSS

  • Victoria Vaughn 16 November 2017, 12:03 pm

    stuoid school work

  • lil sammy 5 December 2017, 10:20 am

    yall best be listening to lil sammy on soundcloud

  • Panduranga Yerusu 14 December 2017, 1:04 am

    fascinating to know about viruses