Viruses and What is Life

Posted on August 7, 2008  Comments (3)

Viruses are generally considered not to be alive (they must use a host cell of something else to reproduce). However, defining exactly what life is, is not as easy as you might think.

The debate about what counts as a living thing is fuelled today by the discovery of the first virus that is able to fall “ill” by being infected with another virus.

the discovery of a giant virus that itself falls ill through infection by another virus seems to suggest they too are alive, highlighting how there is no watertight definition of what exactly scientists mean when they refer to something as “living”.

“There’s no doubt, this is a living organism,” the journal Nature is told by Prof Jean-Michel Claverie, director of the Mediterranean Institute of Microbiology in Marseilles, part of France’s basic-research agency CNRS. “The fact that it can get sick makes it more alive.”

Related: People Have More Bacterial Cells than Human CellsBacteria Feed on Earth’s Ocean-Bottom CrustRetrovirusesBacteriophages: The Most Common Life-Like Form on Earth

3 Responses to “Viruses and What is Life”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Image of Viral Coat
    March 23rd, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

    [...] Viruses and What is Life – Viruses Eating Bacteria – MRI That Can See Bacteria, Virus and Proteins – Finding the Host Genes [...]

  2. Algorithmic Self-Assembly » Curious Cat Science Blog
    July 29th, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

    he shows the promise ahead for using biological building blocks using DNA origami — to create tiny machines that assemble themselves from a set of instructions.

  3. Should Giant Viruses Be Included on the Tree of Life? » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    September 14th, 2012 @ 8:52 am

    [...] given for viruses not being “life” is that they cannot reproduce themselves – they hijack living cells to reproduce. The research in the past history of viruses as they evolved into current viruses is interesting [...]

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