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 and they live just about everywhere, including 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, and 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 of which are beneficial. But it's no surprise they get a bad rap when you hear how they do business.

A virus is basically a parasitic sack of genes that invades the cells of a living host and forces them to create more viruses.

Now, tack on the fact that they're responsible for not just the common cold, but also Ebola and AIDS and 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 (23)
  • NickB-2
    2/26/2015 - 04:37 p.m.

    This article is about bacteria and viruses. It explains the differences between bacteria and viruses. For example, viruses are about 100 times smaller than bacteria, and cannot be treated with antibiotics. Many kinds of bacteria are beneficial, but bacteria are responsible for strep throat and infections while viruses are responsible for problems more akin to the cold, ebola, and AIDS. I actually have always wondered about the differences, and this article clears that up.

  • CapeleyZ-1
    2/26/2015 - 10:09 p.m.

    This article talked about what the difference is between bacteria and viruses. In the article, It said how bacteria are microscopic and are just about everywhere. Although bacteria causes some sicknesses, it is mostly not harmful in fact many are useful like helping us digest our food. Viruses are 100 times smaller than bacteria and there are millions of different kinds. Also antibiotics work on bacteria but not viruses. I think that it is interesting to learn about things in our bodies.

  • SantanaAntonio-DiB
    2/27/2015 - 11:20 a.m.

    Well to answer the essential question the bacteria helps us function on a daily day basis and it can withstand to live in any extreme condition even hot springs and even volcanoes and a virus can even be deadly to the human body and also a virus is even millions of times smaller than a bacteria but the difference in the simplicity is that a bacteria is million of times smaller and not deadly and a virus could be deadly at points

  • nicholas.jones07
    2/27/2015 - 12:55 p.m.

    I think that the differences between viruses and bacteria are kinda hard to recognize. I think that it is interesting the bacteria can be beat by antibiotics and viruses can not. Also the fact that bacteria lives everywhere is also very interesting.

  • havenr-Koc
    3/01/2015 - 02:57 p.m.

    Viruses are horrible and most of them if its just a sickness virus cannot be controlled by medication they just have to take their course. Bacteria can be contained though and diminished at a quick rate with antibiotics.

  • joshn-Koc
    3/01/2015 - 10:54 p.m.

    The narrator encourages us to wash our hands to prevent the spread of bacteria. Since it can be found almost everywhere, it is obvious that it can be on our hands. Soap will kill the bacteria.

  • franklynm-Koc
    3/01/2015 - 11:52 p.m.

    Critical Thinking - Viruses and 100 times smaller than bacteria, both have a negative outlook but can be positive in their own way. One of the big diffrences is that antibiotics do no work on virus. That's why they encourage you to wash your hands. The spread of a virus is much easier when your hands are dirty and or not sanitized.

  • shannons-Koc
    3/02/2015 - 01:07 a.m.

    The reason the narrator stresses the fact to wash your hands is because that is the most vital way to stop the spread of germs. When you don't wash your hands you open your risk to catching a virus or bacteria that can cause illness or disease. By washing your hands you will prevent these germs from entering your body. That is why it is important to wash your hands through out the day, everyday.

  • alizel-Koc
    3/02/2015 - 01:11 a.m.

    The narrator encourages you to wash your hands, to stay safe. Everyone, every single day touches bacteria. When they touch bacteria they touch their face, or they consume things without even washing their hands. It's imperative that people wash their hands, because not only may they touch bacteria, but they also may catch a disease. For example, someone sneezes in their hands & holds the side of the escalator. Someone else touches the exact same spot, while consuming food. They touch the side, then touch their food & into their mouth. They're already contesting the bacteria from the other person. Again, the narrator encourages us to wash our hands to stay safe & clean.

  • vincet-Koc
    3/02/2015 - 01:25 a.m.

    Virus's are more frequent in humans because once they get into the body they disguise themselves. Bacteria can also be treated with antibiotics, while virus's are not affected.

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