Differences between Bacteria and Viruses

Although good bacteria exists, viruses and bacteria may be perceived as harmful to our bodies and environment. However, there are few few distinctions between them, including their utility. According to medterms.com, a virus is “a microorganism smaller than bacteria, which cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell.” Bacteria refer to “single-celled microorganisms which can exist either as independent organisms or as parasites.”

Both viruses and bacteria are microscopic, spread in similar ways, contain DNA and RNA, and can cause infections or disease. However, there are critical differences between a virus and bacteria that are important for such tasks as classifying infections as bacterial or viral. This distinction is important because bacteria and viruses must be treated differently.

• Scope of infection

Viruses and bacteria might have similar symptoms, like fever and chills. Bacteria tend to cause localized infections, while viruses affect different parts of the body simultaneously (systemic). Bacterial infections tend to be associated with pain – localized pain to be precise. On the other hand, viral infections do not often produce pain, with the notable exceptions of herpes. Generally, viruses tend to produce itching or burning sensations spread over a broad area.

• Living attributes

Bacteria are living organisms that can live independently or as parasitic organisms. Bacteria can grow on non-living surfaces as well. Viruses, on the other hand, can be living and non-living microorganisms.  Viruses can only reproduce in a host – taking over the host and using the cell system to produce more virus particles.

• Size

Viruses are far smaller than bacteria – although both are microorganisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Bacteria average1000 nanometres, while viruses are significantly smaller – ranging from 20 to 400 nanometres, according to diffen.com.

• Roles

Bacteria can be completely harmless, useful to humans or disease-causing. Acidophilus, for example, is present in yogurt. Bacteria also aid the digestion process. On the other extreme, Clostridium welchii is a cause of gangrene. Some bacteria cause diseases because they end up in the wrong part of the body. A good example is E. coli, which is harmless in the colon, but causes disease when it moves to other parts of the body. Viruses are generally not beneficial, although some viruses can be use to destroy brain tumours and to aid genetic engineering.

• Treatment

Bacteria can be treated effectively with antibiotics. However, because of the manner in which viruses reproduce, antibiotics have no effect on them. Instead, the body’s immune system is responsible for eliminating viruses. In the case of HIV/ AIDS, the body can only delay the virus before it spreads and takes over. However, some anti-viral remedies are used to accelerate healing and slow down viral infections.

Another difference between bacteria and viruses is in the outermost structure. Bacteria cells have a Peptidoglycan wall, slime/capsule wall, while viruses might be coated with protein. Arguably, the primary differences between bacteria and viruses are the scope of infection they produce, and the living attributes of the microorganisms.