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Revista de Biología Tropical

On-line version ISSN 0034-7744Print version ISSN 0034-7744


HERRERO-URIBE, Libia. Viruses, definitions and reality. Rev. biol. trop [online]. 2011, vol.59, n.3, pp.993-998. ISSN 0034-7744.

Viruses are known to be abundant, ubiquitous, and to play a very important role in the health and evolution of life organisms. However, most  biologists have considered them as entities separate from the realm of life and acting merely as mechanical artifacts that can exchange genes  between different organisms. This article reviews some definitions of life organisms to determine if viruses adjust to them, and additionally,  considers new discoveries to challenge the present definition of viruses. Definitions of life organisms have been revised in order to validate how  viruses fit into them. Viral factories are discussed since these mini-organelles are a good example of the complexity of viral infection, not as a  mechanical usurpation of cell structures, but as a driving force leading to the reorganization and modification of cell structures by viral and cell  enzymes. New discoveries such as the Mimivirus, its virophage and viruses that produce filamentous tails when outside of their host cell, have  stimulated the scientific community to analyze the current definition of viruses. One way to be free for innovation is to learn from life, without rigid  mental structures or tied to the past, in order to understand in an integrated view the new discoveries that will be unfolded in future research. Life  processes must be looked from the complexity and trans-disciplinarity perspective that includes and accepts the temporality of the active processes of life organisms, their interdependency and interrelation among them and their environment. New insights must be found to redefine life  organisms, especially viruses, which still are defined using the same concepts and knowledge of the fifties. Rev. Biol. Trop. 59 (3): 993-998. Epub  2011 September 01.

Keywords : life organisms; viruses; definitions; new discoveries; challenges; historical views.

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