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Are Viruses Alive?

6 Answers
They reproduce, mutate, grow, but are they living creatures? Why or why not?
F

You have asked a question which still has no clear cut answer to this day, more than a hundred years after viruses were first recognised as distinct organic substances capable of causing diseases. While most scientists don't see viruses as living organisms, the real answer comes down to what the definition of life is and accepting the fact that no man-made definition is going to perfectly encompass everything, especially where living things are involved.

Viruses are little more than small sections of genetic material (RNA or DNA) encased in a protein coating. By themself, they are inert and incapable of growth, metabolizing substances, producing or using energy, or reproducing. It is only after they enter a host's living cell that viruses gain the abilities to act like they are alive. Like some sort of chemical catalyst, they react with the host's cell and force it to do their bidding. It is the infected cell that is forced to build more virus particles. It has to gather the energy needed for the job as well as metabolize the raw materials and use its own genetic building blocks to create new virus particles.

The argument of whether or not viruses are alive, can be thought of as being the same as the question used in many first year biology classes, Why is an amoeba considered alive and fire is not? A fire can grow and move, it can consume substances for energy, it produces wastes, and it can reproduce, and it can do all of this on it own mainly. Fire actually comes closer to being alive than viruses do by that argument.

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T

You can say virus as a connecting link between the living beings ans the non living beings. Because virus can never be categorized in any of the group. I mean to say virus is neither perfectly living being nor perfectly nonliving being. It has DNA or RNA as genetic material enclosed in protein coat like living beings but i does not have any necessary set biological processes that help them to reproduce itself without the help of any host. There fore it can be considered as living organic molecule.

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A

The general line of thinking is that viruses are not alive, but this is still being debated quite heavily. A virus is simply a microorganism consisting of a nucleic acid center wrapped in a protein coat, and its way of reproducing involves the use of a host cell. The fact that viruses can't reproduce on their own is a big reason why they aren't often classified as living, because most definitions of life include being able to reproduce on one's own.

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S

No. Viruses are Intracellular Obligate Parasites.

The key word there is obligate - they are obliged (which is not quite the correct term, but go with me here) to find a host. I.E. They must find a host, otherwise they can't reproduce, mutate and grow.

By themselves viruses are pretty pathetic puny little things, but don't say that to someone who's got a cold or something worse!

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W

This is still being debated.. Some people say yes, some people say no.
Most people believe no, because by themselves, viruses cannot survive. While they can reproduce and live, they need a host to do so. They are little more than RNA and DNA encased in a protein shell.

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A

From the arguments given so far, it is hard to distinguish any parasite from a virus, for example, is a hookworm alive?

Also, most animals do not reproduce by themselves, having discovered sex.

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