Question: Are viruses alive?

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  1. Hi Carley – this is a brilliant question – thanks for asking it!

    Viruses challenge the definition of what it means to be alive – is a virus just a molecule or is it a living thing? And scientists still debate this one all the time…

    Some people say no a virus is not alive, because by itself a virus can’t move, reproduce, consume energy or grow. To do all these things a virus needs to be inside another cell, and then it uses that cell’s equipment and resources to make more copies of itself. And so because a virus isn’t able to do those things on its own, some scientists argue that a virus is not alive.

    But other people say, yes a virus is alive, as it has all the information it needs to make new copies of itself. These scientists argue that a virus is actually the most compact and efficient form of life, cause it has worked out how to reproduce even without all its own machinery! A virus has all the genetic information it needs to reproduce itself and can get inside a cell, take over, and make that cell do the work for it. So a virus is actually the simplest form of life, the essence of life itself.

    Sometimes I think viruses are the undead molecular zombies of the biology world – that are neither alive or dead but something in between.



  1. Thankyou very much.