Are viruses alive?

Mick mickj at
Fri Nov 3 14:39:04 EST 1995

A recent disucussion into the nature of life and, specifically, viruses
made me wonder if a virus is alive. Since a virus can lie dormant for
extremely long periods of time and then begin replicating itself in the
presence of a host, is it, indeed, in "control"? Is it replicating itself
or is the host replicating it? Is the fact that a virus may be carried by
one species with no deleterious effects because that carrier hasn't the 
proper raw materials to allow or instigate replication? Also, in a species
where the virus is harmful or even fatal, does it stop because the virus
has run out of "fuel" or, if the host is in control, because it no longer
has the ability to continue supplying either energy or raw materials?

I have no background in biology so I apologize if my questions are

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