Viruses and bacteria are single-celled microorganisms or microorganisms which are basically invisible to the naked eye and can be found in a lot of living and even non-living matter.
They enter the human body via cuts, contaminated food, and water, by coming in contact with a contaminated person, or by indirectly touching infected surfaces. Viruses can also spread by coughing, sneezing, vomiting, and bites from insects.
Read this article to have a thorough idea about – are viruses smaller than bacteria.
1. What are Viruses?
Viruses are basically just pieces of genetic material, RNA or DNA. These do not have a body of their own, unlike bacteria.
They need a host cell to actually adapt to their machinery and use it along with their protein to grow, survive and multiply.
Some of the diseases caused by viral infections include Covid – 19, Chickenpox, HIV, and even the common cold.
The medicines that are used to treat viruses are called antiviral medicines.
The working mechanism of antiviral medicines is that they focus on eradicating the virus cell rather than the host cells, so it requires the help of the immune system of the infected human to flush out the infectious disease cells.
Some antivirals also function to boost the immune system.
2. What are Bacteria?
Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can survive in the most extreme of habitats like deserts or ice slopes and have a very strong yet simple working model which helps them in thriving across all terrains.
Bacteria are of two types broadly, pathogenic bacteria are the ones that cause bacterial infections and harm the human body.
The other type is the good bacteria like the ones found in our gut, these help in digestion and are essential for the human body.
Some pathogenic bacterial infections can be treated using antibiotics, but eventually due to the increased use of antibiotics, now we can even spot some antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Some of the disease-causing bacteria can be very dangerous as they can cause diseases like Strep throat, Tuberculosis, Salmonellosis, and Tetanus.
3. Are Viruses Smaller than Bacteria?
When we compare bacteria and viruses size-wise, we have to keep in mind that bacteria are comparatively very complex creatures than viruses.
This is because they can perform all their functions on their own, even reproduction, so they have to have enough organs and machinery to support these functions.
Viruses on the other hand are very small, they do not have the required machinery for living as they feed off from their host.
So, even the biggest virus would be smaller than the smallest bacteria.
4. Types of Bacterial Shapes
On the basis of their shape, bacteria can broadly be divided into four types which are listed below.
Bacterial infections like Gonorrhea are caused by spherically shaped bacteria which are called cocci.
These can be in pairs, long lines, or even in clusters.
Human illnesses like typhoid and cystitis are caused by rod-shaped bacteria called bacilli.
Bacterial infections caused by the vibrio bacteria include diseases like cholera and diarrhea. These are small and shaped like a comma.
Sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis are caused by tiny spiral-shaped bacteria which are called Spirochaetes.
5. Immunisation against Viruses
Although with the advancement in medical sciences and technology, vaccines for some of the most severe viral infections like measles, and mumps have now become possible, there are still new viruses that can affect the living cells.
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B have proper vaccines available but for Hepatitis C there is still work going on. However, WHO promises an 80% reduction of Hepatitis C (HCV) infections with the HCV elimination strategy by the year 2030.
The problem with viral infection is that most viruses are capable of mutation, so they basically change their essential machinery and system from one person to another.
Now what happens is that when an antiviral medicine is formulated it is made for a particular strain of virus.
So when the virus mutates it might render the medicine useless against the virus, thus helping it affect the living cell again and reproduce inside it.
Making vaccines for all viral infections thus becomes difficult. Even the common cold that comes once every 5-6 months is cured by different medicines for the very same reason, each time the strain changes a little bit and they also tend to develop resistance against the drug.
6. Working of the Bacteria
Bacteria since they have all organs necessary for their survival, use the process of binary fission for reproduction.
This process involves the bacteria splitting into two halves, and this happens in a very quick way so you can have many bacteria in a very small time.
They build their own DNA and a new cell wall, the parent splits into two each part having its own share of genetic material and cell wall.
7. Working of the Viruses
Viruses are basically leaches or pathogens which suck on the lives of other cells, damaging them and causing diseases.
They first break into a living cell and then make the cell replicate the viral genetic material, hence multiplying the virus in the meantime the virus moves from one cell to the other.
This way it multiplies and infects a lot of cells, thus creating a very complex situation inside the host organism’s body.
Although they are very selective with their hosts, some only infect bacteria, some only infect plants, and some only humans.
8. How to Diagnose Viral Infections and Bacterial Infections?
It is very necessary to diagnose any bacterial or viral infection as soon as possible.
Sometimes the symptoms can be similar and delayed diagnosis would lead to delayed treatment which in turn might make the entire case complicated.
For diagnosis the doctor would perform the following; take your medical history, take a blood sample and urine test, or a physical examination.
9. Final Thoughts
Many viruses and bacteria can be found in our everyday lives, in different living organisms.
Viruses as we have seen are smaller than bacteria although both are very small when we try to see them using our eyes.
These can be very helpful or dangerous depending upon the type and their action on our body.
Although our immune system can fight off minor infections, we need special medications to treat anything new or severe.