Difference Between A Virus and Bacteria

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Unlike bacteria, viruses can’t survive without a host; they can only reproduce by attaching themselves to other cells (WebMD, 2020). The virus invades and hijacks the cell and takes over its genetic code as it moves through the body. Think of the virus as a person who has gone to Kinko’s and made million of copies of emails to send all your friends in your address book (Oz and Roizen, 2005).

We can not live without bacteria, they aid in digest and add nutrients to our food choices (Oz & Roizen, 2005). Too much bacteria can cause infection and left untreated bacteria can cause permanent damage to the immune system, without the use of antibiotics (Oz & Roizen, 2005).

Unlike bacteria, most viruses do cause disease, and they’re are quite specific about the cells they attack. Certain viruses attack cells in the liver, respiratory system, or the blood and in some cases, viruses target bacteria (WebMD, 2020). Virus do not response to antibiotics, and can have negative effects by killing only susceptible bacteria and allowing the more dangerous resistant strains of the virus to get stronger (Oz & Roizen, 2005).

Virus can be transmitted by hand-to-hand or mouth-to-mouth and need a host to replicate (common cold, COVID-19). A secondary bacterial infection can occur with a virus, producing thick colored mucus (Oz & Roizen, 2005).

It is difficult to determine whether an illness is viral or bacterial because many ailments, including pneumonia, meningitis, and diarrhea can be caused by either. Your doctor can determine the cause by listening to your medical history and doing a physical exam (WebMD, 2020). The examples of bacteria and virus are as follows: Bacteria: Pimples, Chlamydia, Strep Throat Virus: Common Cold, Mononucleosis, HIV, Chicken Pox, Shingles, Herpes

If you have a sore throat and it doesn’t feel better within 48 hours, you should see a doctor to determine if its bacterial and if you are in need of an antibiotic (Oz & Roizen, 2005). This post is not intended to replace your physician or a trip to the clinic but to keep you informed. Stay well!!


Oz, M, and Roizen, M. (2005). YOU: The owner’s manual: An insider’s guide to the body that will make you healthier and younger, Harper Resource, New York, NY.

WebMD. (2020). Bacterial and Viral Infections, Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/bacterial-and-viral-infections#2-5

Published by Dr. Marilyn Crosby, PhD, MBA, MSN RN

I am an registered nurse with a variety of nursing experience in many areas of healthcare, including critical care, research, program management, quality, and complementary care. I have a passion for "all things related to health & wellness" and want to share pertinent information. Stay Well!

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