Bacterial vs. Viral Infections

Bacterial and viral infections are two distinct types of infections caused by different microorganisms—bacteria and viruses, respectively. While both can cause similar symptoms, they differ in terms of their nature, treatment options, and prevention methods. Here’s a breakdown of the main differences between bacterial and viral infections.

Bacterial infections: Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms that can live independently. Bacterial infections occur when harmful bacteria enter the body and multiply, leading to illness.

Viral infections: Viruses are much smaller than bacteria and are not considered cells. They require a host to replicate. Viral infections occur when viruses invade the body’s cells and use their machinery to reproduce. “Viruses are responsible for a wide range of diseases, including the common cold, measles, chicken pox, genital herpes, and influenza. Many of the emerging infectious diseases, such as AIDS and SARS, are caused by viruses,” according to the National Academy of Sciences.1