Are viruses living or non-living organisms?

Answered Dec 30, 2019

The hassle is in the question itself.

I don’t worry about calling them in some definition of “living or non-living”. I would just call them a biological unit.

A virus is a virus. That has a clear definition of being a parasite that needs another cell for machinery to replicate itself. They need to get inside a host cell, to use transcription and translation structures that the host possess.

A virus is a unit that contains genetic instructions to, with the needed resources, make copies of itself. This basic concept is what started “life”, and is the mission of all “life” forms, up to humans.

If you formally study microbiology, then you would put things into categories. Bacteria, archaea, yeast, and viruses.

The smallest, simplest thing is called “naked DNA”, which is just a chain of nucleotides. And even that can be used to make copies.

The most abundant biological unit on Earth is bacteriophages. Which is a class of viruses that infect bacteria, to make copies of themselves. A handful of ocean water can contain more phage units than the total number of humans that have ever existed.

“Life”, including obviously “living” species, is intertwined with viruses. There is a theory that, the three domains of “life” – Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya were branched off when LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor) had different cell lines infected by bacteriophage viruses.

There are viruses that splice themselves into the host genome. This ranges from Phage Lambda, up to retroviruses, with their information still in human chromosomes.

Viruses may seem like annoying, dead, trashy parasites. But, they live within us, and possibly helped create us.

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