What's the Difference Between a Viral Infection and Bacterial Infection?
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Even though bacteria and viruses can both cause infections, it doesn’t mean that they should either be taken lightly or treated the same. While they do have many things in common like the fact that they are both caused by microbes and both have the same method of transmission, the treatment options are different because bacterial infections require antibiotics while viral infections do not.

By knowing the difference between the two, you will be able to effectively treat your infection while reducing your risk of developing bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

What Is a Bacterial Infection?

As the name suggests, bacterial infections are caused by bacteria. Bacterias are complex single-celled microorganisms that have the ability to survive in many different types of environments. They can reproduce on their own and records have shown that bacteria has existed for about 3.5 billion years. Some bacterial strains are extremely versatile as they can either live in extremely cold environments or hot environments, radioactive waste and in the human body.

Most bacteria don’t cause harm like our gut microbes, for example, as our intestines harvest trillions of bacteria that help our digestion, brain and immune system. In fact, less than 1 percent of bacteria can cause diseases in people.

There are certain bacteria, however, that cause the following infections:

Although bacterial infections are usually treated with antibiotics, bacteria are extremely adaptable and the overuse of antibiotics has made them even more resistant. The findings of using antibiotics for bacterial infections is one of the most essential breakthroughs in medical history, but the fact that there are now antibiotic-resistant bacteria has created serious controversy and now researchers are looking for alternative methods of treatment.

Although bacteria and viruses are both extremely too small to be seen by the naked eye, when informed, you will begin to notice that they’re as different as peas and carrots.

What Is a Viral Infection?

Viral infections are caused by a virus. Viruses are even smaller than bacteria, in fact, the largest strains of viruses are smaller than the smallest bacterial strain. Different from bacteria, viruses can’t survive without a host. Viruses can only survive and reproduce by attaching themselves to cells that they take over and transform them to produce more viruses.

Also unlike bacteria, most viruses that enter the body do cause diseases and are extremely specific about which cells they target. For example, particular kinds of viruses attack cells within the liver, blood and respiratory system. And in some cases, viruses can even attack certain bacteria.

Diseases that are caused by viruses include the following:

Vaccines have been used and proven effective at drastically reducing the number of viral diseases like polio, measles and chickenpox. Vaccines have also been used to prevent infections like hepatitis A and B, influenza and the human papillomavirus (HPV).

The treatment of viral infections has been referred to as challenging because they are small and have the ability to reproduce inside a cell. There are antiviral medications that have been used for viral diseases like influenza and herpes simplex virus infections, but just like antibiotics, the use of antiviral medications have been associated with the creation of drug-resistant microbes as well.

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References

Bacterial and Viral Infections. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/bacterial-and-viral-infections#1

Steckelberg, M. J. (2017, September 07). Infection: Bacterial or viral? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/infectious-diseases/expert-answers/infectious-disease/faq-20058098