Are viruses living entities? What can/can’t they do?

viruses can be viewed as microbes that exist in two phases: an inanimate phase, the virion; and a multiplying phase in an infected cell. Some researchers have promoted the idea that viruses are organisms and that the inanimate virions may be viewed as “spores” that come “alive” in cells, or in factories within cells. This has long been a topic of intense discussion, stimulated most recently by the discovery of giant viruses such as the mimiviruses and pandoraviruses. Check out what the contemporary general public feels about this topic.

Apart from attributing “life” to viruses, many scientists have succumbed to the temptation of ascribing various actions and motives when discussing them. While remarkably effective in enlivening a lecture or an article, anthropomorphic characterizations are inaccurate and also quite misleading. Infected cells and hosts respond in many ways after infection, but viruses are passive agents, totally at the mercy of their environments.

Therefore viruses cannot employ, ensure, synthesize, exhibit, display, destroy, deploy, depend, reprogram, avoid, retain, evade, exploit, generate, etc. As virologists can be very passionate about their subject, it is exceedingly difficult to purge such anthropomorphic terms from virology communications.

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