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Bacterial vs Viral, What Everyone Should Know

Updated on October 3, 2013

Common misunderstandings: Bacteria vs Virus

Today, there are many misconceptions about viruses and bacteria. Either due to the recent immergence of solid science, or lack of public education. Therefor, first and foremost it is important to say that bacteria and viruses are entirely different entities. Their effects are different, their compositions are different, and their treatment options are different. So next time you hear viral outbreak or bacterial outbreak, you will be more informed thanks to what we will discuss here.

A Quick Bacterial Versus Viral Quiz!

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A few Bacterial cell Shapes

What is Bacteria?

Bacteria are single celled organisms known as Prokaryotes. Bacterial cells are often smaller than our average human cells, and have several specific differences. Bacterial cells lack many of the complexities that our Eukaryotic human cells have developed. In essence, Bacterial Prokaryotic cells are like the stock 70's Chevy, and our human Eukaryotic cells are the brand-new luxury Mercedes.

How Bacteria Make Us Sick: Bacteria make us sick often by the chemical byproducts they produce for defense. Upon exposure to an infectious Bacteria, the Bacteria will consume simple carbohydrates and proteins present in its new environment. And, as part of its metabolism and general cellular functions, the Bacteria will excrete a layer of toxins that are harmful to our cells. Keep in mind that this is a generalization specific to only part of the bacterial world. In fact there are many bacterial strains that we symbiotically exist with as we speak!

How We Treat Bacterial Infections: If your immune system alone can not handle the infection, doctors will prescribe anti-biotic medication specific to the type of bacteria you are infected with. In the instance of strep-throat. The streptococcus Bacteria has a thick capsule layer outside of its cell wall which prevents our own immune system from easily destroying it. However, anti-biotics can clear the infection rapidly.

Extra Notes:

Bacteria reproduce exponentially

Bacteria can evolve over generations

Many types of bacteria can exchange genetic information with one another

Bacteria can become anti-biotic resistant due to the two reasons above.

A Few Virus Particle Types

What are Viruses In Comparison To Bacteria

A lot less is known about Viruses in comparison to Bacteria. That is for several reasons, including: Viruses extremely small size and non-life-like function. In a way, Viruses are comparable to biological machinery. See, viruses are composed of a simple shell, and either DNA or RNA inside that shell. When it comes into contact with a cell with the right receptors on it; the virus attaches and injects its genetic information. Once the genetic information is inside the cell, it takes over. This cell is now commandeered, and is forced to rapidly produce copies of the Viral genetic information, and forge new Viral shells. Eventually, the cell will burst; releasing thousands of new Viruses to rapidly infect the organism.

How we treat Viral Infections: We currently are not at a point where we can effectively treat active viral infections. Our main course of action against a viral infection is to nourish the body, giving extra support to the immune system. As a population, we treat viral infections by producing immunizations. Immunizations are special 'killed' forms of the genetic information inside a Virus. From this 'dead viral genetic information', our bodies can develop anti-bodies which will enable us to better survive infection.

Other virus Notes:

Viruses can be species and even cell-type specific due to cell-receptor bonding.

Viruses are too small to be seen with light-microscopes

Viruses often mutate faster than bacteria

Viruses are not technically 'living'

Viruses can target Bacteria

Did you learn something here today?

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    • thebiologyofleah profile image

      Leah Kennedy-Jangraw 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great article- I think this is a really important topic because it should be stressed to the general public that not all infections are caused by bacteria and thus can be treated with antibiotics.

      Great information-thanks for sharing!


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