Updated: Mar 19
Understanding the Difference Between Virus and Bacteria
You do not need to have a PH-D in Biology to understand the difference between Viruses and Bacteria. Let’s use a doctor’s office scenario to better understand the difference between the two. In this scenario two patients enter a doctor’s office; Patient A and Patient B. They both have very similar symptoms which include coughing, sneezing, head ace, and fatigue.
Patient A has a viral infection, caused by a virus and Patient B has a bacterial infection caused by bacteria. The doctor proscribes Patient B with a 2-week prescription for antibiotics. However, the doctor tells Patient A that there is nothing they can do and that they must let the virus run its course then sends the patient home.
Although these types of infections may have similar symptoms, the treatments for each are completely different. This due to the unique nature of a virus and the separate nature of bacteria. To understand the difference, we have to break down what viruses and bacteria are.
The Main differences Between Viruses and Bacteria
The main difference between viruses and bacteria is that Bacteria are complex single-celled, living microorganisms and viruses are not.
Technically viruses are not living things at all.
Bacteria reproduce asexually or by itself. It does this very quickly by a process called Binary fission.
During this process, a bacterial cell will split into two identical fully mature cells. Each of those cells split into another set of two identical fully mature cells and the process continues. In a matter of hours, one single bacteria cell can produce millions of exact replicas of itself.
Once the immune system cells discover the bacteria cells in the body they will begin to fight the infection. When they attack the infection that is when we start to show symptoms of being sick.
We are all semi-familiar with what DNA Is. DNA is a double helix Band that contains genetic information. Everyone’s DNA is unique, not even twins have the same DNA.
DNA is made of two strands of genetic information, one strand comes from our mom and one strand comes from our dad. These two strands of genetic information are combined at random when the dad's sperm fertilizes the mom’s egg.
A virus can be made of just one strand of genetic information, which is called RNA. One way a virus can replicate or reproduce is by hijacking a cell and forcing the cell to make copies of the virus. The cell makes so many copies burst the cell open from the inside. Each one of those viruses then goes on to infect other cells.
The only way to treat most viruses is through preventative care. This means that once someone is sick the only thing you can do is take medications for the symptoms of the illness, not the cause. To protect against virus you must receive a vaccination to that particular virus.
How to protect against Virus and Bacteria
Viruses and Bacteria, for the most part, have very similar methods of transmission, meaning that they both can get you sick in the same way. The most effective way to protect against viral and bacterial infections is to wash your hands! If you are working in healthcare in a position as a Patient Care Technician, Surgical Technician, Dental Assistant, or as a Phlebotomy Technician you are well aware that you must treat all patients as if they could be infectious, wear gloves when doing any procedure and always wash your hands before and after any patient interaction.