Virus or Bacteria — What’s the Difference?

A germ is a germ is a germ, right? Germs are dirty, they make you sick, and that’s the end of that. Well, that’s not quite true. While viruses and bacteria can both cause infections or illness, they are quite different.

If there’s one difference between bacteria and viruses that people know about, it’s that bacteria is susceptible to antibiotic drugs while viruses are not. While that’s important to know – especially if you get an infection – there are many more differences between viruses and bacteria.

Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that can live just about anywhere. A single gram of soil can house tens of millions of bacteria. Bacteria can thrive in the dirt, on your keyboard, and even in your intestines. Hot, cold, wet, or dry, some bacteria is able to thrive in practically any type of environment.

With all of that bacteria around, how is anyone ever healthy? While you would think that ever-present bacteria would mean ever-present illness, most types of bacteria are harmless to a person in good health. However there are bacteria that can cause infections like strep throat and tuberculosis.

While bacterial infections can typically be cured with antibiotics, there are some strains that have grown to resist antibiotic drugs. Misuse of antibiotics has resulted in resilient bacteria that aren’t as susceptible to antibiotic treatments.

Viruses are much smaller than bacteria. There are plenty of water filters that can remove bacteria from your drinking water, but even the finest micron filters can’t guarantee removal of viruses. Unlike bacteria, viruses aren’t living organisms, capable of producing and multiplying on their own. Viruses require a living host in order to survive.

Viruses are no joke. You can think of them as microscopic pirates. They invade your body, commandeer your cells, and force them to produce the virus. A virus can be passed down from mother to child (vertically), or you can contract a virus from another person (horizontally).

While viruses and bacteria are quite different, it can often be hard to determine whether an ailment is cause by one or the other. The best way to figure it out is by scheduling an appointment with your doctor.