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.

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 (1)
  • Steve0620-yyca
    11/25/2015 - 01:00 p.m.

    I have learned about viruses and bacteria before but now I know more about them. Viruses can be harmful and cause colds, flus, and diseases but some are helpful. They work by invading a host cell and forcing it to make more viruses. Bacteria are a little bigger than viruses and they can live anywhere. There are also harmful and helpful bacteria. Some can cause infections or help digest food. Some diseases that viruses cause have different reasons for happening. Some can be cured and some can't. It is good to stay healthy and wash your hands.

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