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The Difference Between A Bacterial Vs. Viral Infection

Do antibiotics work only on bacterial diseases

Infections caused by bacteria and those caused by viruses are significantly different, and there are some similarities worth discussing. Bacterial infections and viral infections have different kinds of microbes and can spread in similar manners such as through coughing, sneezing, contaminated food, and sex among other methods. Viral and bacterial infections are also known to infect the same host at the same time which can turn into a superinfection. In any case, it is important to know the differences between bacterial vs. viral infection as each need specific treatment.

What Is A Bacterial Infection?

There are living bacteria all around us and for the most part they are harmless to our health. Certain bacteria are even essential for our digestive system and to help combat harmful microbes. When comparing a bacterial vs. viral infection, a bacterial infection occurs when we get into contact with detrimental bacteria. The bacteria rapidly multiply and can cause havoc to our body functions. As a result, we become sick with infections such as tuberculosis or strep throat, which are contagious. We generally use antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. Your doctor will limit treatment of bacterial infections because it can develop resistance to antibiotics.

Types of Bacterial Infections

Bacteria are an essential part of our lives, and we would not have things like yogurt or cheese without it. However, disease-causing bacteria like E. coli are responsible for conditions such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections. The bacteria reproduce quickly and produce toxins that damage tissue. As a result, you get sick with food poisoning and show symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Sexually transmitted bacterial infections include gonorrhea or syphilis. Characteristics of these bacterial infections include inflammation and sores. Unfortunately, bacterial infections like chlamydia can be asymptomatic, which means you may not show any signs of infection but can spread it to others.

How Are Bacterial Infections Treated?

When comparing bacterial vs. viral infection treatments, antibiotics are used to kill or prevent bacteria from reproducing. Antibiotics have no impact on viruses. Your doctor may prescribe specialized antibiotics that target specific bacteria or broad-spectrum antibiotics which attack a wider range of bacteria to treat pneumonia or sepsis. Unfortunately, these can also target good bacteria, which can lead to side-effects such as rashes, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, or yeast infections. You might be wondering, “can Amoxicillin be used to treat bacterial vaginosis?” Yes, and when prescribed antibiotics, like Amoxicillin or Diflucan, make sure to take the entire round of medication, even if you start feeling better. Halting treatment might leave remaining harmful bacterial in your system. Despite seeking treatment, bacteria can build resistance to antibiotics and can spread.

What Is A Viral Infection?

Viruses cannot survive on their own and need a host to survive. Once they have a host, they can multiply by taking over control of cells. Viruses can target specific parts of your body like your lungs or liver by attaching and eventually killing the host cells. The most common viral infections include the flu, chickenpox, herpes, and AIDS, which are all contagious. The difference between a bacterial vs. viral infection is that antibiotics cannot treat a viral infection. Instead, we treat the symptoms of the infection in order to give your immune system time to fight off these viruses with help from antiviral medications and preventative vaccines.

Types of Viral Infections

When a virus attaches itself to a cell, it takes over the cell and kills it which makes you sick. When comparing bacterial vs. viral infections, a viral infection can include the common cold or the flu, to more severe infection diseases such as HIV, smallpox, or AIDS. If you do get a virus, your immune system might be able to fight off the infection. This is especially true if you have received preventative vaccinations in the past. Other common viral infections include respiratory infections, measles, meningitis, warts, hepatitis, and those spread by mosquitos like Zika or West Nile virus. In comparison between bacterial vs. viral infections, symptoms from viral infections may be like those associated with bacterial infections. You should not use antibiotics to treat viral infections because further complications can occur.

Viral Infection Treatments

Since antibiotics cannot treat viral infections, we rely on antiviral medication for treatment. In fact, if a viral infection like a flu is detected early enough, using antiviral medication can significantly speed up recovery time. Whereas incorrectly prescribing antibiotics does nothing to make you feel better and has contributed to the rise in antibiotic resistant diseases. We also take preventative measures in the form of early childhood vaccinations in order to build an immunity to viruses like polio or the measles. It is also recommended to get a flu shot at the beginning of every flu season to avoid getting sick and to help prevent the spread of the virus. 

To find out more information about the products that can treat bacterial or viral infections, please visit our website.


Viral–bacterial interactions–therapeutic implications – Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses – Jane C. Deng -

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IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. See your health care professional for medical advice and treatment.