Difference Between Cells and Viruses (With Table)

A world that exists which cannot be seen with the naked eye. Seems pretty fascinating! But, there are many small tiny organisms in your surrounding. If you see with a microscope, you can see different types of microorganisms. Moving forward to the smallest unit of life that constitutes everything is cells. Without cells, there is no existence of anything. Moreover, there are other small living components present in the environment such as viruses too. 

Cells vs Viruses

The main difference between Cells and Viruses is that a cell is a significant structural and functional unit of all living organisms. Instead, a virus is an infectious agent that is considered non-living. The cell is a living component, unlike a virus that is a parasite. 

The cell is a significant component of every living organism. Besides, it is considered a basic structural, functional, and biological unit and the smallest unit of life.  It provides structure to the body, provides energy by taking nutrients, and contains DNA. Prokaryotic cells and Eukaryotic cells are the two main types of cells.

A virus is a small infectious agent, often considered a pathogen as it is non-living. But attach themselves to cells and rapidly replicates the original virus. It can infect any living beings and exist in all ecosystems on the Earth. Furthermore, it contains DNA or RNA, but the structure of a cell and a virus differs.

Comparison Table Between Cells and Viruses

Parameters of ComparisonCellsViruses
Referred Cells are the smallest unit of life. The virus is a submicroscopic pathogen. 
Form It is present in a living form. The virus can be present in a living or non-living.
Cell wallThe cell wall is present. In contrast, the Cell wall is absent in a virus. 
Survival A cell can survive on its own. Without a host, a virus cannot survive. 
RibosomesRibosomes are present in a cell. On the other hand, a ribosome is not present in a virus. 
ReproductionCells reproduce through binary fission and mitosis or meiosis.When a virus replicates, it uses lytic fission to do it.

What is Cell?

A cell is the small basic unit of life, often considered as a building block of life. As it is present in every living being. It provides structure, functionality, and biological component in a living being. The smallest unit of life, a cell provides structure to the body as well as energy. Energy is provided by taking up the nutrients, then converting them into energy. Also, it contains genetic material, DNA. 

Broadly divided into two categories; prokaryotic cells and Eukaryotic cells. The difference is based on the nucleus. Eukaryotic cells contain a nucleus, while Prokaryotic don’t. The cell structure is well defined, with cytoplasm surrounded in a membrane containing several biomolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids.

Cells on an individual level can synthesize their nutrients and other types of molecules, provide energy for themselves and replicate for producing generations. It can be seen as an enclosed vessel in which multiple chemical reactions happen in an orderly manner. 

In multicellular organisms, it exists in groups of cells that perform different functions efficiently.  There’s close communication of surrounding cells, thereby performing function together as tissues. Lastly, a cell is a significant unit that sustains the life of any organism. 

What is Virus?

A virus is a non-living submicroscopic pathogen. It replicates only when it gets attached to a living host. Viruses have their own kingdom as they are special and doesn’t lie under other taxonomic position. It should be considered as an organism as they are not free-living, cannot reproduce, and carry metabolic processes. 

In contrast to cells, it is much smaller. Exist as independent particles called virions. Mostly, it contains either RNA or DNA. However, the nucleic acid can be single- or double-stranded. The virus is simple as it contains two or three components only. 

Unlike Cell, It cannot replicate on its own. It needs a living cell to replicate and the composition is very simple. They are dependent on the host as they cannot synthesize their protein. Therefore, they lack ribosomes that help in synthesizing proteins. Also, they cannot produce and store energy as ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). Thus, they depend on the host cells for energy and other metabolic functions. 

Either RNA or DNA, the nucleic acid is the infectious part of the virus. A variety of organisms can be affected by the virus ranging from plants and animals to microorganisms such as bacteria and archaea

Main Differences Between Cells and Viruses

Cells and viruses are very different from each other. They have different natures and functionality. Although cells are an important component of all living organisms, a virus is typically a parasite. 

  1. Cells are a small living unit of life, whereas a virus is a submicroscopic pathogen. 
  2. Cells are present in a living form, on the other hand, the virus is present in both living and non-living. 
  3. Although, the Cell wall is absent in the virus and it has a capsid. In contrast, cells in a living organism or individual have a cell wall, usually made up of cellulose. 
  4. Cells can survive on their own, while viruses cannot. 
  5. Cells have ribosomes present in them. In contrast, viruses don’t have ribosomes. 
  6. Cells reproduce through binary fission and mitosis or meiosis, while viruses replicate through lytic fission. 
  7. Cells can reproduce on their own, while viruses need a host for replication.
  8. A virus is submicroscopic, while the cell is microscopical. 


Cells and Viruses are very different from each other. The cell is the smallest unit of life, while the virus is a submicroscopic pathogen. Every living being contains cells in them. 

A cell can synthesis nutrients and chemicals, produce energy, and replicate itself on an individual level. But, on a multicellular level, cells together perform different functions and communicate with neighboring cells for efficient functions. Together with similar cells, it forms tissues that work efficiently. 

A cell has a much more complex structure than a virus. It also contains hereditary materials, DNA.  It has ribosomes, therefore they provide energy as well as replicate themselves. Moreover, it can also store energy as ATP. 

A virus is much simpler but an infectious agent that needs a host to live. The structure of a virus is much simple without a cell wall but a capsid is present in it. And ribosomes are not present in it. It also contains RNA or DNA.  Energy cannot be produced or stored in it, therefore it needs a host. 


  1. https://www.cell.com/fulltext/S0092-8674(00)80882-X
  2. https://www.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/micro/10.1099/00221287-17-2-239?crawler=true&mimetype=application/pdf
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