Friday , October 22 2021

What is the difference between bacteria and viruses?


Dear Uncle Max, can you tell me the difference between bacteria and viruses? For example, once we talk about flu bacteria, and then again about flu viruses. (Alexander Krueger of Verdau demands clarification.)

Infectious diseases can be caused by a wide range of pathogens. These are parasites, fungi and also bacteria or viruses. The Federal Center for Health Education explains all pathogens in a very informative way on its website

According to this, viruses consist of only one or more molecules and are sometimes surrounded by a protein layer. Molecules, the smallest units of a chemical compound made up of atoms, contain genetic material (DNA or RNA) with the information needed to reproduce them. Unlike bacteria, viruses do not consist of their own cells, nor do they have their own metabolism. They do not have their own energy production and ability to synthesize proteins. Therefore, strictly speaking, they are not living beings.


The viruses are small, measuring only about 20 to 300 nanometers. So you can not see them under a normal light microscope, you need an electron microscope. Viruses come in many different forms. Some look almost like long-tailed tadpoles, others are round or rod-shaped. They can cause harmless illnesses like colds or flu. Most gastrointestinal infections in this country are also caused by viruses. Serious infections such as HIV / AIDS, hepatitis or coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) are also triggered by viruses. Viruses need host cells in order to multiply. As soon as pathogens enter our body, they begin to multiply. The host cell dies and thousands of viruses are released that immediately start looking for new host cells such as blood cells or muscle cells. Viruses also cause many of the so-called classic childhood diseases such as chickenpox, measles or rubella. By the way, it is still unclear where the viruses come from or where they come from.

Bacteria, on the other hand, are considered to be the oldest inhabitants of the earth. They can multiply under very different conditions and, like viruses, can survive for very long, weeks or even months, in the environment or in the body itself. Bacteria are many times larger than viruses. They range in size from about 0.1 to 700 micrometers and show all kinds of different shapes under a microscope, from spherical structures to branched strands or rods to cylindrical structures. Bacteria are single-celled organisms that are self-sufficient. In their cell they produce what they need to live. They have their own genetic makeup and metabolism. Bacteria can be found everywhere, for example in air, water or food. Bacteria multiply through cell division. The bacterium usually narrows its cell in half and divides into two. So, clone.


Well-known bacteria are, for example, salmonella and staphylococci. Salmonella causes salmonellosis, a typical foodborne illness. Staphylococci, on the other hand, can cause abscesses or sepsis. But diseases such as tuberculosis, whooping cough, scarlet fever or urinary tract infections are also caused by bacteria. Some infections, such as diarrhea or pneumonia, can be caused by viruses or bacteria. The use of the words flu viruses and flu bacteria is not wrong, even if you usually do not know if you owe the common cold to bacteria or viruses without a medical diagnosis. (MQU)

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