What's the difference between bacteria and viruses? (Smithsonian.com)
What's the difference between bacteria and viruses?
Lexile

You asked us, what's the difference between bacteria and viruses?

You see, bacteria are microscopic. They live just about everywhere. That includes some extreme environments. Like hot springs and radioactive waste.

Now, you can wag a finger at bacteria for things like ear infections and strep throat. But most types aren't harmful.

In fact, some are pretty useful. Like the ones that live in our guts and help us digest our food.

Viruses, though, are about 100 times smaller than the average bacteria. And there are probably millions of different kinds out there. Many are beneficial.

But it's no surprise they get a bad rap. Especially when you hear how they do business. A virus is basically a parasitic sack of genes. The genes invade the cells of a living host. They force the cells to create more viruses.

Now, tack on the fact that they're responsible for not just the common cold, but also Ebola and AIDS. It's even easier to see why viruses don't have many fans.

One of the biggest differences between viruses and bacteria has to do with antibiotics. Antibiotics do not work on viruses.

But that and the rise of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria is a story for another day.

In the meantime, share our video not pathogens.

And go wash your hands.

For more infectious stories like this, check us out every day at smithsonian.com.

Critical thinking challenge: Why does the narrator encourage you to wash your hands?
 

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COMMENTS (19)
  • Derekw-Fis
    3/06/2015 - 11:09 a.m.

    cool & awesome thanks for telling me!!!!!! And also it's even more cooler!!!!!!!!!

  • PamelaLara
    5/12/2015 - 10:55 p.m.

    The last article talks about the difference between bacteria and viruses.
    Bacteria are microscopic but viruses are about times smaller than the average bacteria.
    One similarity between bacteria and viruses is that bacteria some are pretty useful, like ones that help us digest our food, also some viruses are beneficial.
    The other difference between bacteria and viruses is that antibiotic do not work on viruses.
    Bacteria live just about everywhere, that includes some extreme environments, like hot springs and radioactive waste.
    A virus is a parasitic sack of genes, the genes invade the cells of a living host, and they force the cells to create more viruses.
    The viruses are responsible the cold, Ebola and AIDS. Its even easier to see why viruses dont have many fans.
    I think that the article is very interesting, since I dont knew the difference between bacteria and viruses and I think that is very important known this things.
    Critical thinking challenge: why does the narrator encourage you to wash your hand?
    The narrator encourage you to wash your hand because bacteria live just about everywhere, thats why that we have to wash ours hands, to prevent illness caused by bacteria.

  • Danielacid
    5/14/2015 - 11:22 a.m.

    This article is about difference between bacteria and viruses. first bacteria are microscopic and live everywhere. the most of bacteria are not harmful, some of them are useful and can help us.
    Viruses are 100 time smaller than bacteria, there are different types of them. according on author"s article viruses are parasitic sack of genes.this viruses are capable to create more cells ,invading to cells of a living host. The AIDS is a example of viruses.
    Antibiotics can cure a illness caused by bacteria. but it do not work in viruses.
    The narrator want that we wash our hands because , there are many germs into contact with ourselves. I must wash my hands every time , because I can avoid getting sick .

  • John0724-YYCA
    6/24/2015 - 04:37 p.m.

    Well now I know the difference between bacteria and viruses like bacteria is microscopic and viruses are about one hundred times smaller than the bacteria and antibiotics don't work on viruses but works on bacteria and viruses are responsible for a lot of horrible things while bacteria are responsible for little things. Viruses are responsible for Ebola and Aids while Bacteria are responsible for ear infection and a strep throat. While they are responsible for many other things and some of them are helpful though.

  • miked-
    8/31/2015 - 11:09 a.m.

    I would not like to get ether of those.

  • kadew-
    8/31/2015 - 11:10 a.m.

    I didn't know there was a difference !:)

  • tylerm-
    8/31/2015 - 11:10 a.m.

    I disliked this article because I never want to be sick its the worst.

  • kadenw-
    8/31/2015 - 11:11 a.m.

    Are there more Viruses than Bacteria or the other way around?

  • brandonb-
    8/31/2015 - 11:13 a.m.

    That is nasty

  • coopers-
    8/31/2015 - 11:15 a.m.

    I hope I don't get a viruse

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