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.

437 thoughts on “Are Viruses Living?”

  1. 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

    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

    Thank you for listening

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Leandro R. Jones

    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).

  6. 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:)

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  8. “…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.

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

  11. Pingback: Are Viruses Living? – AP Bio Blog

  12. 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.

  13. billybob123

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

  14. Aidan Williams

    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)

  15. Laurent Frazier

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

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