Difference between viruses and bacteria

Bacteria and viruses - you hear about them almost all the time on TV, on the radio, and in the news. But what is the difference between the two dreaded pathogens? We cannot see both pathogens with the naked eye. But the differences are fundamental. We explain the differences in non-medical language. If in doubt, however, please contact your doctor.

What are the differences between bacteria and viruses?

The only thing most people know is that they make you sick. But that's about it. But how do they differ? What is more dangerous and how are they treated? The most important aspects for distinguishing between bacteria and viruses are listed below.

What are the differences between viruses and bacteria
What are the differences between viruses and bacteria - Image by Pixaline from Pixabay

The difference in size

The size of the bacteria and viruses is the deciding factor when it comes to differentiating the two. Because a bacterium much larger. Up to 100 times. For this reason, bacteria can also be identified using a light microscope. They have a diameter of about half a micrometer. Viruses are only visible and identifiable using an electron microscope.

The structure

Viruses are much more straightforward. While bacteria are structured with a cell wall, ribosomes and cytoplasm, as well as have a cell nucleus, viruses only have a protein wall, in which a DANN, i.e. a certain genetic material, can be found.

The multiplication

Compared to bacteria, viruses need a host. This means that viruses can only multiply if they infiltrate a cell like parasites. They then use the properties of the cell to multiply their genetic material within it during natural cell division. Bacteria multiply by the so-called cell division, in which the DNA is copied, the bacterium then binds in the middle and then divides. The result is then called a daughter cell. These two cells can then multiply again.

Viruses don't live

Viruses do not have their own metabolism. Bacteria need basic prerequisites, hence the distinction between aerobic bacteria (bacteria that need oxygen) and anaerobic bacteria (that don't need oxygen). Some bacteria also need other substances, such as light or phosphorus.

The type of infection

Viruses, because they infiltrate human cells, ensure that the body's immune system attacks and destroys its own cells, because the viruses are in the cells. For example, this happens with the HIV virus, which then triggers AIDS as an autoimmune disease. Bacteria, because they have their own metabolism, also have breakdown products, some of which are harmful to humans.

Differences in treatment

The widespread rumor that antibiotics would be prescribed for a flu virus is incorrect. Antibiotics only help against bacteria because they attack them and, for example, break down their cellular wall. This damages them and dies. Antibiotics have the advantage that they only attack the bacterial wall and not the human cells. The reason for this is the structure of these cell structures.

Another way to eliminate bacteria is to give antibiotics that change the environment of the bacteria so that they can no longer survive, or at least do not multiply.

Viruses are a bit more complex because they are harder to target. The body has to fight most of the viral infection.

Unfortunately, symptoms can often only be alleviated with viral infections. This usually works very well because the human defense system is extremely strong. The drugs that help fight viruses are called antivirals. Unfortunately, these cannot fight the viruses without damaging the body's own cells. So far, no drug has been found that does not harm the body.

Viruses and bacteria can only be compared with one another in one respect: they harm the body. However, not all bacteria harm the body. Some bacteria live in symbiosis with humans. Many of them are even vital for us. Viruses, on the other hand, have no use for humans.

Disinfectants that protect against bacteria often do not help against viruses at all! So in case of doubt, read the description before lulling yourself into deceptive security.

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