Is a bacteriophage living or non-living entity?

Bacteriophage on the surface of bacteria ready to inject its DNA content

Phages, like other viruses, have a complex life cycle that causes them to be classified as non-living, despite the fact that they exhibit some of the characteristics of a living entity. Viruses and phages are not considered complete living organisms because they cannot carry out biological processes without the assistance of another organism and its cellular machinery. Proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and carbohydrates are examples of complex molecules. They can’t do anything on their own until they enter a living cell ( bacterial cell in case of phage). Viruses cannot multiply in the absence of cells. That is why they are referred to as non-living things.

List of characteristics of bacteriophage as a living thing and non-living thing

Living characteristics of bacteriophagesNon-living characteristics of Bacteriophages
 Capable of multiplying inside a host cell (bacteria)An obligatory intracellular parasite.Cannot multiply extracellularly, i.e., Outside the cell.
Capable of infecting another cell (bacteria).Metabolic activity is absent.
Possesses nucleic acid (either DNA or RNA), proteins (Capsid), and Enzymes for replication.Protoplasm is absent.
Can mutate.Crystallization of viruses is possible.
Table showing characteristics of bacteriophages as living and non-living entities
A group of bacteriophages injects their DNA into a bacterium Courtesy Image from Eye of Science Science Source
A group of bacteriophages injects their DNA into a bacterium Courtesy Image from Eye of Science Science Source

Viruses are the most primitive non-cytoplasmic and cellular infectious agents. D.J. Iwanowski, a Russian botanist, discovered the virus in an infected tobacco plant in 1892. The term “virus,” on the other hand, was coined by M.W. Beijerink (1898). Then, in 1935, W.M. Stanley, an American chemist, isolated the pure crystal of Tobacco Mosaic Viruses (TMV) and concluded that viruses are made of nucleoproteins.

About the author

Hello there!
I'm Raphael Hans Lwesya, My true passion lies in the world of phage research and science communication. As a diligent phage researcher and an enthusiastic science communicator, I've founded "," a platform dedicated to unraveling the fascinating universe of bacteriophages – viruses that specifically target microbes. My ultimate mission is to bridge the communication gap between the general public and the often intricate world of scientific concepts. I take pride in simplifying complex ideas, breaking them down into easily understandable pieces, and making cutting-edge phage-related research accessible to a wide audience. Thank you for visiting The Phage blog. If you have got any question or suggestion please drop it as a comment or via [email protected]


  1. Nice article Rafa. Hard to believe that a non-living form or entity can shape everybody’s lives

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