Anyone who has studied any level of Biology has been fed the dogma of the definition of the word “alive” or “life”. A virus by definition is not technically “alive” because it can only “come alive” or become active in a specific environment that activate it i.e the inside of a nice cozy nutrition rich cell or body fluids. They are host specific but can be manipulated to infect new hosts if gene re assortment occurs, they can only duplicate using host machinery but till today, they were for all intents and purposes not technically “alive”. Consider this news article that talks about reanimating a 30,000 year old huge Viral particle found underneath the Siberian ice to see how it behaves.( Am I the only one who sees the beginning of yet another zombie movie script with B-actors and even worse cinematography about to happen 🙂 ? )
However a new paper published recently using phylogenmics is forcing scientists to revisit that question along with how, and why viruses have originated. The paper published in Science Advances talks about the evolutionary ancestry of viruses and how they may have come from ancient cell progenitors which harbor segmented RNA.
So, well, that begs the question, what the viral progenitor and the ancient cell progenitor share in common and who belonged to who and when did the break up happen if indeed that is what happened?
Are we finally going to have to change our “life” paradigm about viruses?
Then again, yesterday, President Obama and Prime minister Putin shook hands, President Obama and Iranian Foreign minister Zarif shook hands. The United Nations General Assembly, yesterday was witness to new alliances forming, old ones breaking and political paradigms being tested severely because of certain viruses like ISIS and the unending Syrian conflict putting everybody to the test.
So maybe, change is in the air, in what direction, that is yet to be determined, however as science progresses forward, the most important thing to remember is to never stop asking and questioning.