Science Explained: What The Heck is a Virus?

Posted on December 26, 2007  Comments (6)

What The Heck is a Virus? [removed broken link]

A virus is not strictly alive.. nor is it strictly dead… A virus has some fundamental information (genes made of DNA or RNA) which allows it to make copies of itself. However, the virus must be inside a living cell of some kind before the information can be used. In fact, the information won’t be made available unless the virus enters a living cell. It is this entrance of a virus into a cell which is called a viral infection. Too, the virus is very, very small relative to the size of a living cell. Therefore, the information the virus can carry is actually not enough to allow it to make copies (replicate). The virus uses the cell’s machinery and some of the cell’s enzymes to generate virus parts which are later assembled into thousands of new, mature, infectious virus which can leave the cell to infect other cells.

Related: What Are Viruses?Science Summary: PhotosynthesisAmazing Science: RetrovirusesUsing Bacteria to Carry Nanoparticles Into Cells

6 Responses to “Science Explained: What The Heck is a Virus?”

  1. Aurelius Tjin
    December 27th, 2007 @ 12:25 am


    I thought you’re gonna discuss about viral marketing or something. Clever, John. lol

    Thanks for the info.

  2. Curious Cat: Science Explains: Flame Color
    February 18th, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

    “Have you ever wondered why some flames are yellow, while others are blue? Growing up, I was always told that it was a matter of temperature, that hot flames were blue and cooler flames were yellow…”

  3. CuriousCat: Virus Engineered To Kill Deadly Brain Tumors
    February 24th, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

    Too bad these press releases never quite live up to the initial promise. Still this one is very cool, if it can succeed in helping even a small percentage of people it will be a great breakthrough…

  4. Curious Cat » Viruses and What is Life
    August 7th, 2008 @ 8:16 am

    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…

  5. Bacteriophages: The Most Common Life-Like Form on Earth » Curious Cat Science Blog
    April 27th, 2011 @ 11:48 am

    These small viruses are not clearly a form of life, since when not attached to bacteria they are completely dormant. Bacteriophages attack and eat bacteria and have likely been doing so for over 3 billion years…

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