Are Viruses Alive - BIOLOGY


Question: Are Viruses Alive?
Viruses are the most abundant biological entities in the biosphere and are ten times highly abundant than bacterial cells. The viruses have been an intriguing topic of research and debate among the scientist. The essay aims to present thorough research on the various factors making viruses a unique organism. 
This essay will present an overview of them and evaluate their classification on whether they are living or not.  
•    Introduction: The introduction provides a brief on viruses and introduces the topic.
•    Para 1: This part of the essay presents the factors that help in differentiating between the living and non-living organisms. 
•    Para 2: This part of the essay further explains viruses and their characteristics.
•    Para 3: This part of the essay presents an insight into6 why the viruses are considered to be are non-living things.
•    Para 4:  This part of the essay ascertains the factors making viruses belong to the category of living organisms. 
•    Conclusion: This part of the essay sums up the whole essay. 



  • Viruses are an infective agent having nucleic acid molecules and have the ability to multiply and replicated in the presence of a host cell. 

  • The word virus comes from a Latin word meaning “poison”. (Villarreal, L, 2004).

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What are the characteristics of living things?

  • Reproduction: The living organisms have the ability to reproduce and have genetic material in their cells so as to carry out the process of reproduction. 

  • Metabolism: The living organisms have the ability to grow by and required energy so as to carry out metabolic activities for producing molecules and to help them to sustain. (Forterre, P, 2010).

  • Organization: Living organisms have a collection of integrated organs. In the multicellular organisms, all the cells constitute to form tissues which form organs. Whereas a single cell has the ability to carry out all the functions on its own in the unicellular organisms (Villarreal, L, 2004).

What are Viruses?

  • Viruses are the most abundant organisms on this planet. These are the parasites that are usually seen to skirt around a thin line between inert matter and life (Villarreal, L, 2004).

  • The viruses have their own proteins and nucleic acids but lack their own ability to replicate. Therefore a host cell is required for their survival (Forterre, P, 2010).

  • The most common examples of viruses are HIV/AIDS, rabies, etc. (Villarreal, L, 2004)

Why are they considered by most scientists to be non-living?

  • The viruses are parasites depending on the energy as well as the raw materials from the host cells so as to replicate.

  • The viruses replicate and do not have the ability to reproduce on their own.

  • The viruses have the tendency to crystallize in the absence of a host cell, unlike living organisms.

  • Hence, it has been established by various scientists that viruses must be placed in the category of non-living organisms. (Forterre, P, 2010).

Why do some scientists want viruses to be included as living organisms?

  • The viruses are seen to have their own genetic material namely, the proteins and nucleic acids.

  • The viruses can replicate, multiply and even mutate albeit taking assistance from a living host cell. (Villarreal, L, 2004)

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  • Villarreal, L, 2004, ‘Are Viruses Alive?’, Scientific American vol.291 pp. 100? 105

  • Forterre, P, 2010, ‘Defining Life: The Virus Viewpoint’, Orig. Life Evol Biosph, vol. 40 pp. 151? 160

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