Difference Between Cells and Viruses

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

Cells on an individual level can synthesize their nutrients and other types of molecules, provide energy for themselves and replicate for producing generations. 

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. 

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.

In contrast to cells, it is much smaller. Exist as independent particles called virions. Mostly, it contains either RNA or DNA.

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.

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 can reproduce on their own, while viruses need a host for replication.
  2. A virus is submicroscopic, while the cell is microscopical. 
Difference Between Cells and Viruses


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.

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.

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.


  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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