Over the years, bacterial and viral infections have killed millions of people. In recent history, few of the deadly bacterial and viral infections have been Spanish flu, HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. Even though bacterial and viral infections are equally dangerous, they are not one and the same. In affected individuals, both the infections may cause similar symptoms such as fever, cough, vomiting, diarrhoea and so on. However, in various other important aspects, there is a vast difference between bacterial and viral infection. 

Differentiating between bacterial and viral infections is essentially important as the treatment plan might vary. So we at TABIIB, have tried to briefly explain the difference between the two organisms that cause some of the deadliest diseases in the world. 

Difference Between Bacteria And Virus

3D render of a medical background with virus cells and DNA strand. Aims to show the difference between bacteria And virus

The obvious difference between bacterial and viral infection is that bacteria cause a bacterial infection while a virus causes a viral infection. Bacteria are single celled microorganisms that are invisible to the human eye. Bacteria exist in a variety of environments. They are, in fact, even found in the human body. Interestingly, according to research, there are actually 10 times more microbial cells than human cells in the human body. 

Bacteria can be both helpful and harmful to the human species. For instance, a particular strain of bacteria referred to as the “friendly bacteria”, coexists with the healthy cells in our body. The healthy bacteria help the human body by easing digestion, killing disease-causing microbes and providing essential nutrients. Even though 99% of bacteria are harmless, the remaining 1% cause deadly diseases such as pneumonia. 

Viruses are microbes that become active only when they invade other living cells. The main purpose of a virus is to make more viruses and unlike bacteria, most viruses cause diseases. In most cases, a different strain of virus attacks a different part of the human body. For instance, the coronavirus attacks the cells in the lungs, while poliovirus affects the movement causing limb or lower body paralysis. 

Key Difference Between Bacterial And Viral Infection Treatment

microscope and virus with hospitalbed and mask on pink background 3d rendering

Differentiating between bacterial and viral infections is important to determine the treatment plan for patients. Doctors usually differentiate between the two after a blood test or a physical test. Once the test confirms the type of infection, doctors formulate a treatment plan accordingly. Antibiotics are used to treat patients with Bacterial infections are treated in patients with the help of various antibiotics, to kill the infection. While bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, viral infections can’t.  

Viral infections are treated with the help of antiviral drugs. These drugs don’t destroy the virus but they inhibit its development. Usually, the body can resolve most viral infections on its own and doctors prescribe medicines only to provide some relief to patients. 

How Does A Bacterial And Viral Infection Spread?

The spread of a particular infection is dependent on the specific strain of bacteria or virus. However, in various cases, this is how a bacterial and viral infection can spread:

  • From the aerosols of an infected individual 
  • Other forms of physical contact with an infected individual
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces, food or water
  • Contact with infected animals or insects

When To Consult A Doctor?

Picture of a doctor aimed to describe the scenario of when to consult a doctor

When you feel unwell, it’s always best to go to a doctor. Since bacterial and viral infections have similar symptoms, diagnosis can be tricky. Additionally, as the treatment plan widely varies for both infections, it is best not to self diagnose or self medicate. So when you are sick for a speedy recovery talk to your physician. 

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