Viruses and bacteria: differences and protection methods / Dr. Maor Kohn and Dr. Mati Cohen


Both bacteria and viruses can cause infection and illness what are their differences

Bacterium is a single-cell living organism. The human body actually has more bacteria then cells. There are good bacteria beneficial to the body, and there are bad bacteria that harm the body and cause infections. For example, pneumonia is a disease caused by bacteria (or viruses) that damage lung vesicles, the area where the oxygen transfers from the lungs to the blood. Antibiotics are an effective method to eliminate bacteria. Antibiotics are substances, molecules, which can either kill the bacterium or prevent it from growing. The source of antibiotics is a fungus, which, as part of its development creates a molecule that harms their growth. It kills bacteria and develops where they have grown. It is a kind of biological warfare due to competition for resources where the fungus has found a method to eliminate the bacterium.

Viruses, on the other hand, are not living organisms, they require live hosts in order to multiply. The virus is a small body made up of proteins and hereditary material. The virus attaches itself to living cell, inserts its genetic material and thus reprograms the cell to make additional copies of itself. Today there are no effective drugs to treat viral diseases. Antibiotics is not an effective solution as it inhibits certain reproduction processes in the bacterial cells. The virus takes advantage of the mechanisms in the host cell so antibiotics would be inhibiting our cells in order to harm the virus

For Example, a virus can be a cause for cancer because it inserts its genetic material into our genome to reproduce itself. If a gene responsible for controlling the reproduction of a cell is damaged at the time of virus penetration, it may cause the cell to begin dividing without control – this making it a cancerous cell. Just to be clear, not every virus can cause cancer, for example, the virus that causes influenza (flu) cannot produce cancer cells. There is evidence that the HIV virus can.

The main weapon we can use against viruses is vaccines. That is using our own immune systems to battle the viral invasion and acquire active immunity from the viral invader. Vaccines are agents containing weakened and controlled viral infection of the body. When injected into the body, the body recognizes a threat and produces antibodies against the virus. The first vaccines were discovered by chance in the 18th century when doctors noticed that milkmen fell sick less when exposed to smallpox. This happened because the milkmen had been exposed to a similar cattle version of the disease and developed immunity to it. It is true that even without prior vaccinations, when a body is infected by a virus it may be able to produce the antibodies to the virus. However, such an infection would not be a weakened one so that the body may not be able to react quickly and efficiently. So, the question is whether the body could survive such an infection in a timely manner.


This article was edited by Tammy Kaplan Zabari.

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