Home » Natural Science » Biology » Why Viruses are Living Organisms

Why Viruses are Living Organisms

   Send article as PDF   

Viruses are the tiny parasites which in general are a lot smaller than bacteria and lack that capacity of reproducing outside the host’s body. They consist of the genetic material; that is RNA or DNA that has a surrounding of protein, glycoprotein, or fat coating. For the past century, the scientific community has always been in the constant dilemma as for whether to put viruses in the classification of living organisms or non-living organisms. Initially, they were seen as poisons, then later on as life-forms, then as chemicals of biology. Their different physical aspects, lifestyles and the genome dimensions make it complicated to pigeonhole. Today from the new analysis, the classification of viruses should be as living organisms.

            In nature, one of the primal urges for any species is the passing on of the genetic information, and viruses unquestionably do so through multiplication. They can parasitize actually on the cells of the host for the raw resources and energy crucial for the synthesis of nucleic acid, synthesis of protein, transport, processing, and all the other biochemical actions for them to be able to multiply and spread. Some people may then come to a conclusion that, even if such processes are coming under the viral course, they are just basically lifeless parasites of live metabolic organisms.

Nevertheless, a continuum may subsist that differentiates what is alive and what is not. For instance, a metabolically active bag that is devoid of genetic substance and has no potential for promulgation is not alive. As for the seed, it might not get that consideration of being alive; however, it poses potential for life, and can also undergo destruction (Brussow, 2009). In regards to the viruses, they do look a lot like the seed than the live cells. They do bear certain potentials that have the capability of being extinguished, yet they don’t have the ability to attain the more independent status of existence. That clearly proves the critics wrong in considering the viruses as nonliving organisms as only living organisms have that capability of replication (Villarreal, 2004).

The viruses fall under the classification of living things in that they can adapt to their environment just like all other living organisms. Adaptation and evolution take place through the unpremeditated alterations that are of greater advantage to the whole species. The virus can survive in two different stages; that is the lytic phase where they enthusiastically reproduce in the host cells, and the lysogenic stage whereby there is the incorporation of the viral DNA into the DNA of the cells and undergo multiplication on every occasion that the cell multiplies. When the host lacks that sufficient energy or supplies that can aid the active replication of the virus, then it switches to the lysogenic phase. Later on, when the conditions become right for the virus, it reenters the lytic stage eventually. The capability of adapting to the environment is what has been making the human immunodeficiency virus very hard to treat. HIV always causes repeated faults while reproducing its genomes thus making it have a quicker mutation. For that case, it has always been tough to design the vaccines and drugs against HIV due to its constant changing (KHANACADEMY, 2017).

According to the Caetano-Anolles’ data, the viruses have been evolving all along as they originated from the many primordial cells which most likely enclosed the separated RNA genomes (Science Advances, 2015). Further, the data suggests that at some point in the advancement history of the viruses that is not far away after the emergence of the modern cellular life, the majority achieved the ability to summarize themselves in the protein coats thereby protecting their hereditary payloads. That has always enabled the viruses in spending fraction of their life out of the host cells and multiplies. The protein creases that are exclusive to the viruses are inclusive of those that outline the viral capsids. The capsids have become a lot more complicated over time thereby permitting the viruses to get infectious to the previously resistant cells (Science Advances, 2015). Only living things have that capability of undergoing evolution over time and adapting to their environments, and if the viruses were nonliving as others have been claiming, then they would not be undergoing such processes and also there would be the HIV vaccines and cure (Macdonald, 2015).

The recent discovery of a giant virus which when infected by another virus falls ill is also a clear indication that these organisms are living things. Just by the fact that they can become sick proves that they are more living. Ever since 2003, the giant viruses have always captivated the virologists, but it was later found that it was a massive virus with genome harboring over 900 protein-coding genes (Pearson, 2008). That also proves the critics wrong because there is no way a nonliving organism is capable of having genes and also being able to fall sick. From that, we can deduce that for sure, viruses should fall under the classification of living things.

Right from the distinct-celled creatures to the human populaces, viruses have an effect on all the earthly life. They often determine what survives and what does not. They always evolve, and the new ones such as HIV-1 that causes AIDS might be the only ones that have made it possible to witness and provide an example of evolution providing their living nature. Therefore, all the researchers should always acknowledge viruses as living organisms and even start studying them in that context of the web of life. Through that, the cure for the viral diseases like HIV would soon be available.

Scroll to Top