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DB Blog #45 – Virus and bacteria, what are the differences?

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Germs: bacteria, viruses, fungi, infection – what’s the difference?

Germs live everywhere and refer to microscopic bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and helminths that can potentially cause disease.  Most germs are harmless as our immune system will protect against them, however where this isn’t the case, regular, effective and efficient cleaning, sanitising or disinfecting is imperative so that germs do not get the opportunity to take hold.

See my blog on the difference between cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting as this will give an insight into aims of each process.

Anyway, back to germs.  Generally germs can be broken down in to 5 groups:

Bacteria – Bacteria are single-celled, or simple organisms that you cannot see by the naked eye.  They may be small, but they are powerful and complex and can survive in diverse environments and extreme conditions.  Bacteria get nutrients from their environments.  As we all know with the various products on the market for our gut, there can be good and bad bacteria for the human body.  Bacteria are defined by their shape; spherical (cocci), rod (bacilli), spiral (spirilla), comma (vibrios) and corkscrew (spirochaetes)

Viruses – Viruses are smaller than bacteria and need to rely on the cells of other organisms to live and breed because they can’t catch or store energy themselves. They can only survive if they’re living inside something else (such as a person, animal, or plant).  As parasites – they cannot live on their own.

Fungi – Fungi are multi celled, plant like organisms that feed from plants, food and animals in moist and warm environments.  They are more complicated organisms than viruses and bacteria—they are “eukaryotes,” which means they have cells.

Protozoa – Protozoa are single-celled organisms like bacteria but are bigger and contain a nucleus and other cell structures. They are often compared to plant and animal cell structures.  They can either exist freely or as a parasite feeding on organic matter such as other microorganisms or organic tissues and debris.  They live in fresh water, marine environments and the soil.

Helminths – Helminth is a general term meaning worm.  They are also parasites.  If the worm or its eggs enter your body it will live off your body’s nutrients.  There are many different kinds of helminth ranging in length from less than one millimetre to over one metre.  Helminths include tapeworms and roundworms.

Pathogens refer to germs that are harmful.  Any of the above germs that cause infection and disease are referred to as pathogens.

Infection and disease, what’s the difference?

There is a distinct difference.  Essentially, infection occurs when harmful germs that cause disease enter the body and start reproducing.  Disease occurs when the cells in the body have been damaged as as result of the infection.

Remember – cleaning and sanitising as well as regular and effective handwashing are important ways to help  stop the spread of germs and diseases taking hold. 

I hope you found this interesting.

Keep safe!

Yours, DB