Bacteria vs. Virus

Bacteria are single-celled, prokaryotic microorganisms that exist in abundance in both living hosts and in all areas of the planet (e.g., soil, water). By their nature, they can be either "good" (beneficial) or "bad" (harmful) for the health of plants, humans and other animals that come into contact with them. A virus is acellular (has no cell structure) and requires a living host to survive; it causes illness its host, which then elicits immune responses. Bacteria are alive, while scientists are not yet sure if viruses are living or non-living.

Infections caused by harmful bacteria can almost always be cured with antibiotics. While some viruses can be vaccinated against, most, such as HIV and the viruses which cause the common cold, are incurable, even if their symptoms can be treated, meaning the living host must have a strong enough immune system to survive the infection.

Comparison chart

Bacteria

Virus

Ribosomes Present Absent
Cell wall Peptidoglycan/Lipopolysaccharide No cell wall. Protein coat present instead.
Living attributes Living organism Opinions differ on whether viruses are a form of life or organic structures that interact with living organisms.
Number of cells Unicellular; one cell No cells; not living
Nucleus No No
Structures DNA and RNA floating freely in cytoplasm. Has cell wall and cell membrane. DNA or RNA enclosed inside a coat of protein.
Treatment Antibiotics Vaccines prevent the spread and antiviral medications help to slow reproduction but can not stop it completely.
Enzymes Yes Yes, in some
Virulence Yes Yes
Infection Localized Systemic
Benefits Some bacteria are beneficial (e.g. certain bacteria are required in the gut) Viruses are not beneficial. However, a particular virus may be able to destroy brain tumors (see references). Viruses can be useful in genetic engineering.
Reproduction Fission- a form of asexual reproduction Invades a host cell and takes over the cell causing it to make copies of the viral DNA/RNA. Destroys the host cell releasing new viruses.
Size Larger (1000nm) Smaller (20 - 400nm)

Contents: Bacteria vs Virus

Virus - Bacteria Differences

Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli bacilli
Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli bacilli

Video explaining the differences

This video explains the differences between bacteria and viruses.

Structure and contents of a typical Gram positive bacterial cell
Structure and contents of a typical Gram positive bacterial cell

Differences in reproduction

Bacteria carry all the "machinery" (cell organelles) needed for their growth and multiplication. Bacteria usually reproduce asexually. In case of sexual reproduction, certain plasmids genetic material can be passed between bacteria. On the other hand, viruses mainly carry information - for example, DNA or RNA, packaged in a protein and/or membranous coat. Viruses harness the host cell's machinery to reproduce. Their legs attach onto the surface of the cell, then the genetic material contained inside the head of the virus is injected into the cell. This genetic material can either use the cell's machinery to produce its own proteins and/or virus bits, or it can be integrated into the cell's DNA/RNA and then translated later. When enough "baby" viruses are produced the cell bursts, releasing the new viral particles. In a sense, viruses are not truly "living", but are essentially information (DNA or RNA) that float around until they encounter a suitable living host.

Transmission electron microscope (TEM) image of a recreated 1918 influenza virus
Transmission electron microscope (TEM) image of a recreated 1918 influenza virus

Living vs. Non-Living

Bacteria are living organisms but opinions vary on whether viruses are. A virus is an organic structures that interacts with living organisms. It does show characteristics of life such as having genes, evolving by natural selection and reproducing by creating multiple copies of themselves through self-assembly. But viruses don't have a cellular structure or their own metabolism; they need a host cell to reproduce. It should be noted that bacterial species such as rickettsia and chlamydia are considered living organisms despite the same limitation of not being able to reproduce without a host cell. See also: Virus - Life Properties (Wikipedia)

References

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Comments: Bacteria vs Virus

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Anonymous comments (15)

May 28, 2011, 5:39am

Well it does say *most* bacteria can grow on non-living surfaces. So nit picking aside, this article is accurate.

— 24.✗.✗.203
3

March 21, 2011, 9:32pm

Question 1. How immunization works?
Answer: Immunization works with the receiver being exposed to a very small amount of a virus or a bacteria, your immune system then attacks the infection.

Question 2. List 4 different types of vaccines with brief description.
Answer: 1) Attenuated live virus is used in the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine.
2) Killed (inactivated) vaccines are made from a protein or other small pieces taken from a virus or bacteria
3) Toxoid vaccines contain a toxin or a chemical made by the bacteria or virus. They make you immune to the harmful effects of the infection, rather than to the infection itself.
4) Biosynthetic vaccines contain human-made substances that the immune system thinks are infectious organisms. The Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) conjugate vaccine is one example.

— 216.✗.✗.233
2

April 30, 2009, 12:15am

no, virus are not cells, or cellular organisms. They are like machines that float around and take over living cells. They can survive without water although bacteria can also in a sense, through spores or seeds that can become alive just add water

everything alive eats something, breathes something, and excretes something as waste and has living cells with protoplasm (water) in membranes. this includes bacteria but not virus

imagine there were little machines floating in the air that were not alive, just hunks of metal. When you came in contact with them, they would use some specialized part to dock with an opening on your body. They then inject RNA or DNA into you and turn your body into a living factory to produce more machines. When the machines were fully formed, you would burst (and die) and release thousands of identical machines into the air to infect others.

— 66.✗.✗.49
2

April 17, 2009, 10:08am

bacteria and viruses are both a organism and i THINK theyre a cell too but im not sure.

— 4.✗.✗.186
1

March 25, 2009, 4:43am

a bacteria is, a virus isn't.

— 203.✗.✗.2
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May 28, 2011, 5:27am

Given my previous comment, obviously these to statements in summary are also partially incorrect:

"The biggest difference between viruses and bacteria is that viruses must have a living host - like a plant or animal - to multiply, while most bacteria can grow on non-living surfaces.
Bacteria are intercellular organisms(i.e. they live in-between cells); whereas viruses are intracellular organisms (they infiltrate the host cell and live inside the cell). They change the host cell's genetic material from its normal function to producing the virus itself."rykews evidence

— 85.✗.✗.127
0

June 15, 2008, 6:50pm

are bacteria and viruses cells?

— 218.✗.✗.3
-1

March 21, 2014, 2:51pm

Bacteria and viruses which are the biggest

— 93.✗.✗.212
-2

January 30, 2014, 9:30am

Four feautures of bacteria that enable them to survive in a wide variety of habitats

— 82.✗.✗.223
-2

January 26, 2014, 6:18pm

What is the difference between viruses and bacteria

— 82.✗.✗.137
-2

January 19, 2014, 12:05pm

Thank u so much 4 information that u gave me.

— 82.✗.✗.109
-2

December 17, 2013, 3:36am

i complete my assignment ,help of this

— 37.✗.✗.1
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November 23, 2013, 6:19pm

excuse me, mr. — 64.✗.✗.74 on 2009-12-03 00:07:24, don't viruses die off after a while with usage of antiviral medications?

— 24.✗.✗.65
-2

November 23, 2013, 6:12pm

thank you so much

— 24.✗.✗.65
-2

November 23, 2013, 6:11pm

OH MY GOD YOU ARE AWESOME

— 24.✗.✗.65
-2

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