Is a virus alive?

Karl Roberts kr1 at PGSTUMAIL.PG.CC.MD.US
Wed Feb 19 13:17:28 EST 1997

Dear Nick,
	I quite agree with you that the virus is incapable of replication 
unless it somehow manages to modify host activities. I am certainly not 
going to make the claim that viruses are living...simply that they are 
biological entities. Thanks for the reply.

On 19 Feb 1997, Nicholas Landau wrote:

> kr1 at PGSTUMAIL.PG.CC.MD.US (Karl Roberts) writes:
> >Viruses can, without too much discussion, be considered acellular 
> >biological entities. Since the concept of what constitutes life is still 
> >basically unresolved and subject to personal interpretation, it is 
> >probably best to think of viruses in this fashion. Obligate intracellular 
> >parasites can include viruses, chlamydiae, mycoplasmas, and possibly even 
> >prions and viroids, if you wish...viruses even have their own system of 
> >classification, separate from other entities. You decide, and let us know.
> >Joe 
> Gotta disagree.  The virus itself is incapable of any biological
> function.  This is not simply a matter of growth conditions, as is
> the case of the cellular obligate intracellular parasites, some of
> which can be raised in the lab under highly specific conditions, without
> the presence of a host.
> Even once viral nucleic acids have entered a host cell, the virus
> itself does not conduct biological activity.  It simply modifies
> the biological activities of the host.
> Geneticists love to refer to virus, transposons and viroids as organisms,
> because they have genomes.  For a geneticist, this is all that matters.
> As a microbiologist, I see life as more complex than simply the presence
> of a certain molecule, such as DNA.
> Of course, nothing stated here is unknown to the proponants of counting
> virus as living, and so nothing is resolved.
> So goes science.
> Nick Landau

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