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November 28, 2014

Homework Help: Biology

Posted by mysterychicken on Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 5:04pm.

41. A group calling itself "Virus Alive!" believes that viruses are living organisms. They have petitioned the scientific community to include viruses in the biological classification system. You are a scientist assigned to explain to this group that, although they share many characteristics of living organisms, viruses are NOT alive. You are instructed to be considerate of the group's position and discuss the characteristics of living organisims that are similar to the characteristics of viruses. However, you must then make the case that these similarities do not make a virus a living organism. Write your speech to "Virus Alive!" in two to three well-developed paragraphs.

The characteristics of living organisms are: movement, respiration, sensitivity, growth, reproduction, excretion and nutrition. Viruses such as HIV are clearly capable of movement within the blood stream. Cancer provides a great example of how a virus can reproduce within a host. Viruses grow by within the host's cells, where they gain their nutrition and consequently excrete. Virus sensitivity refers to how resistant viruses are to drugs or treatements, or alternatively put how likely they are to be destroyed by treatement. As such viruses appear to possess all the characteristics of living beings.
However, Viruses do not have a cellular structure, and can only exist for any considerable period of time within a host. Viruses do not have their own metabolism, for which again they are dependent upon a host, and they need a host cell to make new products, so they can't reproduce outside a host cell. When reproduction is specified as a characteristic of life we refer to cell division. Given a viruses inability to perform several characteristics of life independently of a host I conclude that a virus is not a living organism.

-MC

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