Viruses and Bacteria: What Sets Them Apart

Viruses and Bacteria: What Sets Them Apart


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  • Source: Microbioz India

  • Date: 10 Nov,2023

Viruses and bacteria are both types of microorganisms, but they differ significantly in structure, function, and behavior.

How are viruses different from bacteria at the apex?

Cellular structure:

  1. Bacteria: If it wasn’t for bacteria causing problems, they’d be fascinating. These little single-celled organisms have a complex cellular structure. They come complete with a cell wall, cell membrane for the organelles, and even something called a flagellum so they can move around. Pili or capsules were also found on some bacteria.
  2. Viruses: Taking on infections in a more simplistic way, viruses lack cellular structure at all. Instead of having different parts to them, there’s just genetic material like DNA or RNA. Which is wrapped up in a protective protein coat called a capsid.

Living or Non-Living:

  1. Bacteria: They’re considered living organisms and don’t have to go through all the trials other things do. For example, they can carry out all the processes necessary for life like metabolism, growth, and reproduction.
  2. Viruses: The same cannot be said for viruses that are more robotic than anything else. They lack the ability to take on metabolic processes on their own so they must find another host cell to replicate and basically survive.


  1. Bacteria: Bacteria will reproduce through binary fission which means one bacterial cell splits into two identical daughter cells.
  2. Viruses: Replication is impossible for viruses if we look at it from how we understand things. They must hijack a host cell to use machinery there so they can replicate material.


  1. Bacteria: A whole lot bigger than viral particles, bacterial cells typically range from 0.5 to 5 micrometers in size which helps with their complexity.
  2. Viruses: Comparatively tiny sitting between 0.02 to 0.3 micrometers in size. Anything smaller than 0.1 is only visible under an electron microscope.


  1. Bacteria: Taking shots against it becomes easier when you know how it works. That’s what antibiotics do, they target specific structures or functions present in bacteria.
  2. Viruses: Treatments for viruses are quite the challenge. Antiviral medications can be used to help with symptoms but vaccines are much more effective when it comes to preventing viral illnesses.

Host Specificity:

  1. Bacteria: Bacteria doesn’t have a care about who it infects. It can bounce between hosts like animals, plants, and humans.
  2. Viruses: Highly selective, viruses each have their own specific host cell or range of host cells to latch onto due to recognition between proteins on the surface of the virus and receptors on the host cell.

To effectively deal with bacterial and viral infections we must first understand these differences.

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