Is a virus alive?

Ricardo Azpiroz azpiroz at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Wed Feb 5 12:07:30 EST 1997

An even better question is: What the hell is this nonsense discussion
doing in this space for working people?

Enough, please.

Ricardo Azpiroz

On 4 Feb 1997, Peter French wrote:

Dr E. Buxbaum wrote:
>"R. BAKER" <rubaker at> wrote:
>>Is a virus a living organism or not????  It can reproduce but must rely 
>>on the host cell and the host cell's metabolism?  What constitutes a 
>>virus as alive or non-living?
>Nop, it can NOT reproduce. It can only make cells to reproduce it, which 
>is a fundamental difference. Viruses also lack metabolism, another of the 
>characteristics of live.

>From which I conclude that s/he thinks that a virus is not alive. This is
clearly nonsense. If a virus is not alive how can it be killed by viricidal
agents? Saying it is not alive because it uses cellular metabolism to
propagate itself is like saying that humans are not alive because we need
the earth's atmosphere to be able to live. Clearly under any sensible
definition of life, viruses are living organisms. A better question is "Are
prions alive?"

Ricardo Azpiroz
Department of Biochemistry
Life Sciences South
University of Arizona
Tucson AZ 85721-0106

azpiroz at U.Arizona.EDU

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