Virus vs Bacteria

Viruses and bacteria can both make us sick. But they’re very different from each other; they affect us in different ways, cause different diseases and need different types of treatment.

How are they different?

Both are too small for the human eye to see, but the average bacterium is about 100 times bigger than the average virus. Because viruses are so small, they are able to live inside human cells, while bacteria live inside organs such as the stomach.

Viruses cause disease by attacking the cells, forcing them to reproduce the virus. For example, the HI virus, which causes AIDS, attacks white blood cells responsible for fighting infections in the body.

Generally speaking, viruses are almost always harmful, while only certain types of bacteria cause disease. In fact, there are millions of bacteria living in the human body that are harmless or even beneficial to humans.

However, there are types of bacteria that can cause serious diseases by attacking certain organs.  People infected with HIV are more vulnerable to these types of bacteria, because the HI virus weakens their immune system which would usually fight off the harmful bacteria.

mage from HIV & AIDS by Marina Appelbaum

How can we treat them?

Because they live inside cells, viruses are usually difficult to kill. However, anti-retroviral drugs can be used to prevent a virus from reproducing in the body.

Bacterial diseases are treated with antibiotics: powerful drugs with are able to kill certain types of bacteria.

Fact: Most HIV-related deaths are as a result of opportunistic infections – bacteria that invade the body because of the patient’s weakened immune system. Tuberculosis is the most common of these, but it is possible to be treated for TB even if you are HIV-positive.

Image by: foshydog