Is Your Bug a Bacteria or Virus? Why It Matters
When you feel sick, it’s not always clear what caused the illness. It may be an infection from a bacteria or virus. Understanding the difference between the two is more important than ever.
Every one of us shares our food, air, and water with tiny organisms like viruses and bacteria. Most of these organisms are not dangerous. However, some of them, especially novel ones, can cause illnesses like COVID-19.
Let’s dive deeper into these differences and why they’re important.
The Differences Between Bacteria and Viruses
Living vs. Not Living
The biggest difference between a virus and bacteria is that they are non-living and living, respectively.
Viruses grow and reproduce in the cell of their host. Their life depends on the ability to hijack the biochemical activities of another living organism. They can not live on their own.
Bacteria are living organisms. They consist of a single cell that can make its own energy, food, and can move and reproduce. This allows bacteria to live in many different places on their own (such as soil, water, food, the human body, etc.). They also serve many different and important purposes for humans and the environment.
Bacteria are basically giants when you compare them to a virus. Bacteria are about 0.4 micron, which is one-millionth of a meter. Viruses, however, are about 0.02 to 0.35 microns. They are so small that you can not detect a virus using a normal microscope.
The way that bacteria and viruses infect our body is also different.
Viruses will infect a host cell and then multiple by the thousands. These copies will travel to other cells in the body, infecting them as they move around. A viral infection occurs as a systemic spread throughout the body. These kinds of viruses include influenza, measles, AIDS, COVID-19, or polio.
Harmful bacteria will infect a human body when the opportunity arises. This is called opportunistic infection. When a part of the body is infected with bacteria, it is usually confined to this space. Some of these bacteria will produce harmful toxins that can kills cells and diminish our immune response.
How to Treat a Viral Infection
If you have a viral infection, then no one drug exists to heal the infection. Every virus will be completely different and will need a specific drug to weaken it. Vaccines are often used to provide preemptive protection. They do this by training the body to recognize the virus so it can attack it if it ever does enter the body.
That’s why testing your infection quickly is very important. That’s the only way it can be treated properly. If you’re looking for an identification service, try MIDI Labs.
How to Treat a Bacterial Infection
General antibiotics were developed to kill bacteria both in our bodies and in our food by preventing their growth. Bacteria are very adaptive and evolve quickly, making it quite tough to target them using antibiotics.
Bacteria or Virus: Know The Difference
When you know the difference between a bacteria or virus, you’ll know how to best approach the infection. Viruses should not be treated with antibiotics, and bacteria should not be treated with antivirals.
COVID-19 showed us that new viruses don’t have easy solutions. We need to come up with new drugs and vaccines to stay. Until a vaccine is found, handwashing and physical distance are the best strategies to prevent the further spread of the virus.
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