What distinguishes us Indians from others?

What is the difference between viruses and bacteria?

The novel corona virus is currently spreading worldwide. Many countries are trying to do something about it. You will notice that for yourself: Schools are being closed and many adults are now working from home. This is done so that as few people as possible can meet and so that the virus cannot be passed on to others. But what exactly is a virus? And how does it differ from a bacterium?

Viruses and bacteria are often mentioned in the same breath. They actually have some things in common. For example, they cannot be seen with the naked eye and they can make us sick. They existed on earth long before the first humans and they can be found almost everywhere. There are tons of different types of both. But there are also some very serious differences.

Compared to viruses, bacteria are significantly larger - on average even a hundred times. Bacteria are considered living beings because they can produce offspring themselves and have a metabolism.

Bacteria are single-celled organisms without a nucleus. Everything that the bacterium needs to live and reproduce is in this cell. At certain time intervals, the bacterium copies its genetic material and divides. Then there are two cells with the same content. This is how bacteria multiply. They can live very well outside the human body and reproduce there too.

There are very different types of bacteria. Many are useful or even indispensable for humans. For example, 10 to 100 billion bacteria live in the human intestine and do useful things there. There they help, for example, with digestion or the fight against pathogens.

Viruses, on the other hand, consist of a shell that contains their genetic make-up. Then nothing. There is no information on how they can reproduce or keep themselves alive. That is why viruses are not necessarily seen as living beings. In order to reproduce, they need a “host”, that is, another living being. Once it has penetrated the host's body, the virus attacks certain cells and reprograms them in such a way that they then produce new viruses and can no longer carry out their original task in the body. If the virus cannot find a host and thus no cell that it can reprogram to “multiply”, it dies.

Another important difference that you should know: There is medical help against pathogenic bacteria: antibiotics. These are drugs that target bacteria in a very targeted manner. Viruses, on the other hand, cannot be combated with antibiotics. But you can get vaccinated against many viruses that can cause serious illnesses as a precaution. And: If the body has survived a virus infection itself, it is often immune to this particular virus afterwards, so that you cannot get the disease again.

Sometimes the doctor still prescribes antibiotics, even if you have a viral infection. This is because a viral infection weakens the body. Bacteria then have an easy job and can additionally burden the body with an infection. On the other hand, the antibiotics help. But they cannot fight the virus.