Viruses are intricate collections of molecules that can infect all types of life forms, from plants and animals to microorganisms like bacteria. The origins of viruses in the evolutionary history of life are still a mystery to scientists. We don't even know whether we can even consider them 'alive.' Because viruses cannot survive on their own and need living cells to multiply, many think of them as non-living entities. One thing is for sure though: they challenge our concept of what 'alive' even means.
In this article, postdoctoral researcher in Microbiology and Bioinformatics, Hugh Harris shares his thoughts on the subject. Enjoy!
Viruses are an inescapable part of life, especially in a global viral pandemic. Yet ask a roomful of scientists if viruses are alive and you’ll get a very mixed response.
The truth is, we don’t fully understand viruses, and we’re still trying to understand life. Some properties of living things are absent from viruses, such as cellular structure, metabolism (the chemical reactions that take place in cells) and homeostasis (keeping a stable internal environment).