Bacterial vs. Viral Infections-Difference Between a Virus and Bacteria

In our daily lives, we often encounter various illnesses caused by infections. Two common types of infections that affect humans are bacterial and viral infections. While they may share some similarities, it’s crucial to understand the differences between the two in order to effectively prevent, diagnose, and treat these conditions. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into bacterial and viral infections, exploring their characteristics, causes, symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures.

Difference Between a Virus and Bacteria
Difference Between a Virus and Bacteria

Bacterial vs. Viral Infections


For starters, we as humans have an odd relationship with bacteria. In some scenarios, bacteria are helpful for us being one of the best decomposers on the planet. They help us digest and help in the decaying process of plants and animals.

Bacteria can reproduce from 1 to 500 000 in merely eight hours. They can also become dormant if the environment around them doesn’t cooperate with them. This dormant form is called a spore, which they have a stronger outer layering.

Since bacteria can help us but also harm us, maintaining a balance is important. The beneficial bacteria have several important functions to perform in the body. For instance, one type known as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, is bacteria that resides in the small intestine.

It helps manufacture vitamin K and other infection-fighting agents. But if the population of this bacteria type falls lower than the normal range, a person becomes more susceptible to contracting infections.

Likewise, another bacterium type called E.coli is an important part of a healthy intestinal tract, although, you may only have heard bad things about E.coli. This particular type of bacteria comes in several strains, with some being harmless and helpful while others that are harmful.

When the balance between the two gets disturbed, with the harmful types outnumbering the helpful ones, a person can fall sick, with the worst cases becoming fatal.

The variety that harms your body is called pathogenic bacteria. All bacteria are single-celled organisms, and their main attribute is that they thrive. Bacteria are capable of taking shelter anywhere where they can gain aching. They can decompose. In the break digestive system, they help in breaking down food in these parts.

Then there are times when the decomposition of bacteria can harm, such as flesh-eating bacteria that affect tissues around muscles, fat, and nerves.

Bacterial Infection Symptoms

Pathogenic bacteria are the type of bacteria that harm your body, causing a grand amount of possible sicknesses.

Bacteria have multiple classifications; through these classifications, you can identify what type of sickness they wield upon your body.

Bacteria can affect your skin, respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems. They can be from food items, other sick people, or by touching plants, animals, and other infected areas.

Bacteria can be classified through their shapes, whether they require oxygen or not, or are gram-positive or gram-negative. With all of these classifications, it becomes easier for doctors to identify and pinpoint the bacteria causing your illness and allows them to follow through with an antibiotic to fight off the bacteria.

When categorizing them by shape, they come in three different identifiable shapes. Cocci are spherical bacterial bodies. Bacilli are cylindrical-shaped bacterial bodies. Spirilla are spring or swiveled-shaped bacterial bodies.

Listed below are some bacteria-caused sicknesses classified under the bacterial attributes.

Gram-Negative Bacteria

  • Plague
  • Cat-scratch Disease
  • Salmonella
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Brucellosis

Gram-Positive Bacteria

  • Anthrax
  • Diptheria
  • Staphylococcal Infections
  • Streptococcal Infections
  • Listeriosis
  • Nocardiosis

These classifications help doctors figure out easier where the origin of the sickness is coming from and how to treat it.

Some relatively common bacterial infection symptoms are a rough cough, strep throat, ear infections, and UTI (urinary tract infection).

How to Treat Bacterial Infections?

Bacterial infections are dealt with by consuming antibiotics. These antibiotics prescribed by doctors help fight off the invading bacteria from spreading all over the body. These antibiotics are made to specifically fight off these bacteria and are not to be used otherwise without a doctor’s permission.

One grand issue when it comes to dealing with prescriptions. Some people tend to carelessly resort to portion drugs when sick or use them for longer than expected.

If you consume these prescription medicines more than you should, their helpful effects on the body can diminish. Eventually, the body’s immune system will learn to fight off the medicine before taking action against diseases.

Always take the prescribed amount a doctor gives, and never start consuming antibiotics without a clear say-so. Another issue to remember is not overlapping medicines unless a doctor tells you it is okay. In some cases, two medicines can fight one another or create an issue in your body when taken together.


Viruses can be considered parasites. Unlike bacteria, they don’t, in any situation, come as a helping hand. Viruses will always invade from the outside since they have to take over host cells to survive. Viruses themselves are incapable of reproducing. To do so, they invade other living cells with the capability to do so, infecting this cell and reproducing more virus cells.

Viruses are the kings of widespread diseases, such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa. They spread quickly and reproduce at hasty speeds.

The biggest threat viruses pose is that they hide inside your cells. This makes it hard for your body’s immune system to find them until they start causing changes in the structure of the cell they’ve inhabited.

Viral Infection Symptoms

Viruses can create sicknesses in the following areas;

  • Respiratory tract. Diseases in this area can be in the nose, throat, and lungs. Some outcomes of these type of infections are cold or cough, sinus problems, and a sore throat. More severe illnesses can be influenza and pneumonia. These types of viruses are the most commonly experienced.
  • Gastrointestinal tract. These types of illnesses directly affect your digestion and digestive organs such as the stomach and intestines.
  • Nervous System. These mentioned viruses can affect the brain directly or indirectly by implementing control over the spinal cord. Some examples are polio, rabies virus, and meningitis.
  • Skin. These type of infections only develop in your skin cells such as warts, blemishes, and rashes. Chickenpox is an example of a skin-type virus.

These kinds of viruses can all be detected by a doctor if you go to get a checkup. They may ask for a sample of saliva, urine, or blood. They can also have a physical exam done or do a check on your medical history. After doing this, they can prescribe you a vaccine for the virus or tell you what to avoid and take while this sickness takes place.

Common symptoms leading to viral infections are colds, flu, and fever.

How to Treat Viral Infections?

Since the invasion of viruses can only be noted once the virus starts reproducing in the host’s body, nature’s way is the best solution for viral infections.

Antibiotics don’t affect viruses, leaving your natural immune system as the best way to remove the invader.

There are ways you can naturally help your body when fighting off sickness. You can rest and take some time for yourself. Drinking water and eating healthy foods in their purest form also help boost your strength.

You can take over-the-counter medications such as painkillers to calm the pain or ache associated with the virus. Vaccines can also be injected to help the body fight the issue naturally. Some vaccines are better taken before the sickness ever occurs to help strengthen the body.

Identifying Between Bacteria and Viruses

Identifying Between Bacteria and Viruses

Sometimes, bacteria and viruses can create the same type of sickness. For example, both a cough and cold can result from either bacteria or a virus in your body. Doctors would need more time and symptoms to identify and properly treat which one it is.

You can identify bacteria from viruses primarily by looking for their differences. With bacteria, single-bodied cells attack your system in a collective group. When it comes to viruses, you’ll have dysfunctional cells since the viruses need to invade host bodies to reproduce.

There’s no way for you to identify whether or not you have a viral or bacterial infection. Once you figure out that you are sick, you can go to a doctor who will make the final assessment to see what is causing the sickness. This may require some samples on your behalf, or they may ask to do tests.

Simpler and more modest sicknesses, such as the cold may not require as many tests as the flu.

Both the cold and flu come around with the sniffles in colder seasons. They both come as a virus and they both don’t have any direct antibiotic to fix it. Sometimes, a cold can come from bacteria. When it does, it’s then when you can take medications to help yourself get better.

More commonly you’ll get a cold from a virus, which you’ll have to wait out with rest and a constant supply of tissues. The symptoms of a lingering cold will be a runny nose, sore throat, and some congestion. The common cold is simply a nuisance.

When it comes to the flu, this virus can be prevented with vaccination. The flu will create issues with your respiratory system infecting your lungs and joints. It’s even liable to create pneumonia. In the worst cases, influenza can even lead to death.

The symptoms of the flu and the cold are the same. The one difference you’ll notice between the two is the severity of the symptoms and how long the symptoms last. A cold will last 7-10 days, while the flu will linger on longer with a more extreme effect on your health.

If they last longer than 10 days, you can start to assume that the virus has piggy-backed on bacteria and there is now the possibility of antibiotics helping you. If your doctor says otherwise, rest, warm liquids and warmth are what you need to help yourself get better from influenza.

The best way to prevent the flu from infiltrating your system is by taking a vaccine beforehand. For children between the ages of 6-19, women who are currently pregnant, and people over and of the age of 50 are highly recommended to get a vaccination.

There is, of course, no limitation to getting a vaccination so long as you don’t have an egg allergy, you haven’t taken a vaccination within the two prior weeks to this shot and you’re not ill at the time of the actual illness.

A vaccination helps better prepare your body to fight off the illness. It does so by imitating the virus’s impact on your body, giving your immune system a punching bag to practice on if ever the real deal does arrive.

How Do These Infections Spread?

When it comes to either a virus or bacteria, the most common way they spread is through contact. Sneezing, coughing, or touching someone when your hands aren’t clean will cause the bacteria or virus to spread. Sexual intercourse can also spread some severe diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis.

Cuts and open wounds that aren’t treated can also allow viruses and bacteria to enter your body unwantedly. Being bitten by insects or an animal can also cause an infection to spur.

These types of infections are better shown to a doctor cannot fightseases humans aren’t capable of fighting off. Infections received from wild animals, such as rats, raccoons, and dogs, are considered dangerous as they may possess rabies.

Fortunately, there are ways you can prevent yourself from catching any contagious diseases.

  • Wash your hands before and after you eat something. If you shake hands with sick people, wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes or mouth.
  • All your food should be properly and immediately cooked and, when not in use, cooled.
  • Different foods (meats, vegetables, and fruits) should be prepared separately.
  • Cleaning all your food items before preparation helps reduce the likelihood of there being bacteria and viruses on them.
  • During sexual intercourse, it’s always better to wear protection to reduce the chances of spreading any disease.
  • Disinfect and clean any wound right after it occurs to prevent infection or the development of bacteria and viruses.
  • Don’t have takeout food often as these can have contaminated particles on them.
  • Keep hand sanitizer on you at all times for emergencies
  • Your environment should be clean as well. Ensure you clean your home and office frequently to keep bacteria and viruses from developing in the area.


  • Both bacteria and viruses are identified as pathogens, meaning they are harmful organisms. Bacteria and viruses can both be the cause of illness and there is the possibility of them both wielding the same symptoms. Other than this, there aren’t many similarities between the two.
  • Bacteria is a single-bodied cell that has the ability to reproduce. This allows them to inhabit areas and fend for themselves independently. Bacteria can be found in our gut as a helpful component that aids in digestion. Bacteria is one of the most successful living organisms globally and is also a widespread decomposer in the natural world.
  • As it is helpful, it can also be dangerous and reaps the chances of being a sickness leaking into your body.
  • Viruses are parasites that only invade host cells. They are much tinier than bacteria and cannot reproduce on their own. That is why they need to invade other cells.
  • Bacteria can be treated with antibiotics. Viruses, since they can only be identified after they’ve reproduced in your body and taken over cells in the body, are better left untouched by antibiotics. Antibiotics fail to affect viruses and therefore leave only your immune system as the fighting sport to fend them off.
  • You can keep your body clean of any viruses and bacteria by washing your hands before and after eating anything. Use protection and always disinfect any injuries you receive. There are germs and bacteria on everything so stray away from using public restrooms and other areas. If you must, then have hand sanitizer on you at all times to keep yourself clean and away from possible impurities.

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