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, 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.

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. The genes invade the cells of a living host and force 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. 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 (108)
  • Colby N Turquoise
    2/26/2015 - 05:30 p.m.

    Wow, I never thought about a difference between bacteria and viruses. I always knew that viruses were worse than bacteria but I never thought it was this bad of a difference. I guess that I know how much of a difference they have between each other, thanks.

  • MasonK-4
    2/26/2015 - 06:20 p.m.

    Hopefully my computer doesn't get a virus making this comment! This article was about the difference between viruses and bacteria. Bacteria is mostly harmless, but can be harmful, like how some bacteria can cause strep throat, or ear infections. But viruses are about one hundred times smaller and make cells create more viruses inside the body. What's even worse is that antibiotics don't work on viruses. I now suddenly find the urge to wash my hands.

  • FloresSara-DiB
    2/26/2015 - 06:26 p.m.

    The difference between bacteria and viruses are that they have to do with antibiotics. But antibiotics do not work on viruses They ask that question because bacteria are microscopic which mean they live about everywhere including the extreme environments like hot springs and radioactive waste. viruses are 100 times smaller then the average bacteria. There are millions of different kinds out there and many that are beneficial. They also say a virus is basically a parasitic sack of genes.

  • MaxM-4
    2/26/2015 - 06:56 p.m.

    Bacteria and viruses are two very different things. Bacteria are microscopic organisms that live almost everywhere. Some are dangerous, but most are harmless or even beneficial. Viruses are about 100 times smaller than the average bacterium and are basically just parasitic sacs of DNA. Antibiotics only work on bacteria.
    I thought this was very interesting. I think diseases are really interesting, and these were some cool facts.

  • JasonW-1
    2/26/2015 - 07:23 p.m.

    Bacteria cause things such as ear infections and strep throat. They also help digest food. Bacteria also can be killed with antibiotics. Viruses on the other hand, cause AIDS and Ebola. They can not be cured with antibiotics. This article was not at all news or a story. It was kind of pointless. If you cared about this you would look it up. I hate that it tries to claim it's a story at the end.

  • DylanM-4
    2/26/2015 - 08:30 p.m.

    There are many different things between viruses and bacteria. For one bacteria is thousands of times larger than viruses. The majority of both of them are actually good for your body and don't hurt you. Although people think that viruses are even worse because they are the cause for aids and ebola. For both of them, they have their good things and drawbacks.

  • JonathanAA-4
    2/26/2015 - 08:52 p.m.

    This article is about the difference between a virus and bacteria. Bacteria is microscopic and can live about anywhere, including extreme enviornments like hot springs and radioactive waste. A virus is about 100 times smaller than the average bacteria and are probably millions of different kinds out there, many of which are beneficial. In this article i found the differences between viruses and bacteria interesting because they are almost everywhere.

  • KeaganB-1
    2/26/2015 - 09:46 p.m.

    There is a major difference between bacteria and viruses. Bacteria are my Microscopic and can form your infections and strep throat. Some bacteria are helpful like the ones in your gut which help you digest food. Viruses are 100 times smaller than the average bacteria many viruses are beneficial. viruses are responsible for not just the common cold but eBola and aids. I thought this article was very interesting and I hope I do not get a bacteria or virus that is bad

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    2/26/2015 - 09:56 p.m.

    This is good to know because there are differences between viruses and bacteria. Viruses are way smaller than bacteria and antibiotics have no effect on them. Also, viruses are the stuff that make diseases happen. They transfer their RNA to make their host cell to do what it wants to do and make more RNA to control more cells. That is how the symptoms affect the infected person.
    Critical thinking challenge: Why does the narrator encourage you to wash your hands?
    Answer: The narrator encourages you to wash your hands because when you don't wash your hands, you spread pathogens that can make someone sick.

  • Jason0421-YYCA
    2/26/2015 - 09:56 p.m.

    I think that it is amazing and cool to learn that there are good bacterias. This would mean that viruses are the real threat. The other real threat would be bad bacterias. At first I thought that viruses and all bacterias were the ones that were hurting us. I believe that viruses in the future are going to become a huge problem in the future because antibiotics won't be able to stop viruses if the viruses can stop the antibiotics.
    Critical thinking challenge: Why does the narrator encourage you to wash your hands?
    Answer: The narrator encourages us to wash our hands because we have harmful bacteria and viruses in our hands.

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