is a virus alive?

Roman Szabo SZABOR at fns.uniba.sk
Thu Feb 20 09:11:43 EST 1997

Sorry for double posting, I had some problems with my mailbox.

Nicholas Landau wrote:
> 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.

Now I have to disagree. You can raise also virus under "highly
specific conditions", in vitro. In fact, you can raise whatever, just
provide it with everything it needs. Until you do not define that A is
not alive if it needs B, there is no principal difference between
viruses and mycoplasmas (or humans). It is just matter of definition
of life, being far from real science. By the way, can someone tell me
why it is so important for us to know what  is alive  and what is
not? Is it just a feature selected milions years ago because it was
important for our predecesors to recognize living from non-living, or
is there something more?  I know this is not really microbiological
question, but this discussion never was purely microbiological.

Roman Szabo
    Roman Szabo                           e-mail:szabor at fns.uniba.sk
    Dept. Biochemistry
    Faculty of Natural Sciences            "Any similarity between
    Comenius University                     science and reality is
    Mlynska dolina CH-1, 84215 Bratislava   purely coincidental and
    Slovakia                                subject to change..."

More information about the Microbio mailing list

Send comments to us at biosci-help [At] net.bio.net