Bacteria are small organisms that can thrive in many places. In humans, they mostly live in the intestines, where they help digest food. While some bacteria cause bacterial infections (think strep throat, TB, and urinary tract infections), some bacteria is actually good for humans.
Viruses, on the other hand, can’t survive outside the human body. They need a host in order to multiply, so they enter your cells and take over them to help reproduce. They cause diseases like AIDS, chickenpox, and the common cold.
A big distinction between bacteria related sickness and viral sicknesses is that a bacterial illness can be cured with antibiotics. Viruses cannot be cured by antibiotics – you either have to wait them out (colds) or, like AIDS, are permanent.
Viruses and bacteria will often cause similar symptoms, like coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever, etc. But they differ in the way they are shaped and designed. As a result, they respond differently to medications. Bacterial infections will respond to antibiotics whereas viral infections will not.
A ha. One of my favorite topics. The difference is fascinating, absolutely fascinating. Bacteria are organisms. That is, they consume energy, they live, reproduce, die, and evolve over time through natural selection (in this case asexual natural selection arising from mutations).
Viruses on the other hand are flukes of nature. They do not require any energy, per se. They don’t create waste biproducts, and they cannot reproduce without a host organism. They are essentially only a rogue strand of genetic information that floats around from organism to organism in a protein sheath. They can lie dormant for years, indefinitely even, given the right circumstances. So, there is actually debate about what a virus IS, and whether or not it is alive. But they are FUNDAMENTALLY different than bacteria, not only different because of the symptoms they manifest in a host.
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