Is it Bacterial or Viral?

Simply put, bacterial infections are caused by any form of bacteria. A staph infection, often misspelled as staff infection, is a common bacterial infection that affects many people worldwide. Other bacterial infections that are rather common include urinary tract infections, strep throat, and tuberculosis. Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms.

There are literally thousands of kinds of bacteria living in every type of environment on the planet. They can live in dirt, sea water, and even within the depths of the earth’s crust. Bacteria can even live on the bodies of humans and animals. There are many types of bacteria inside the average human mouth, for example. The mouth is one of the most prevalent areas for bacteria to reside. Many bacteria are actually beneficial to humans and do not cause us harm.

Bacteria and Disease
There are types of bacteria, however, that can cause disease. These types of bacteria are most often referred to as pathogens. Some bacteria that normally reside harmlessly in the human body can cause disease suddenly and drastically. The way bacteria can cause harm to a human body is by producing toxins that invade tissue and other parts of the human body.

Certain bacteria in the mouth, for instance, create a biofilm on the teeth that traps food particles, which in turn can start the course of tooth decay. Antibiotics are most often prescribed to someone who is suffering with some type of bacterial infection. However, bacteria can eventually form a resistance to antibiotics. The cause for the bacteria’s resistance is the fact that the bacteria can acquire resistance genes from other cells and bacteria that are already resistant to the medication. Because of this fact, the more antibiotics that are used, the more resistant the bacteria will become.

Resistance to Antibiotics
Bacteria that have become resistant can be very dangerous to the population. Not only can resistant bacteria travel from person-to-person, but it can also travel from animal-to-person. Many healthy livestock animals are given antibiotics to fight bacteria that can cause impaired growth and illness in the animals. Many sexually transmitted diseases are also bacterial, such as gonorrhea.

How Viruses are Different
Viruses are smaller than bacteria and are different in that they must invade a living host in order to grow and reproduce. This living host can be a human, animal, or even a plant. When entering the body, the virus attaches to a cell, enters the cell, and releases its DNA or RNA into the cell. The DNA or RNA makes up the information that the virus needs in order to reproduce. The virus’s genetic material forces the cell to reproduce the virus. Cells that have been infected by a virus often die. When an infected cell dies, it releases new viruses into the surrounding area to infect other cells. This process continues until the virus is capable of causing extreme illness and disease.

Certain viruses do not kill the cell that it has entered. Instead, the virus will alter the cell’s normal functioning. Sometimes, the cell loses control of its normal cell division and becomes cancerous to the host individual. Viruses usually only effect one particular type of cell. For instance, cold viruses affect the upper respiratory system.

Immune Response
The body’s immune system is triggered when a virus enters the system. This amazing human response is called immunity and can also be triggered through the use of a vaccination. The most common viral infections are ones that affect the nose, throat, and upper respiratory system. These infections can include the common cold, influenza, and sore throat. Viral infections can also affect the nervous system and these viruses include West Nile virus and rabies. Certain viruses can even affect the skin resulting in warts.

Viruses can be treated with medications referred to as antiviral drugs. Most antiviral drugs work by interfering with the reproduction of viruses on its host’s cells. A vaccination is considered an antiviral drug because it can strengthen the immune system against certain viruses. Antibiotics are not effective against a viral infection.