Feeds

What is the difference between a virus and a bacterium?

Pesky pathogens

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Also in this week's column:

What is the difference between a virus and a bacterium?

Asked by Russell Stapleton of Melbourne, Australia

Viruses and bacteria are both capable of killing humans and ravaging human health. It is a very fair question. There are some subtle and not so subtle differences between a virus and a bacterium (the plural is bacteria).

A virus is an organism that contains no cells (acellular) whose genome consists of nucleic acid and that reproduce inside host cells. When they do this they use host metabolic machinery and ribosomes to form a pool of components which assemble into particles called virions. Virions serve to protect the genome and to transfer it to other cells. Viruses are distinct from other so-called virus-like agents such as viroids, plasmids, and prions. Other characteristics of viruses include: They do not breathe, move or grow. However, they most definitely reproduce and can adapt to new hosts.

A bacterium is any of the one-celled (unicellular) prokaryotic micro-organisms of the class Schizomycetes. These vary in terms of their form and structure (morphology), oxygen and nutritional requirements, and capability to move (motility). They may be free-living, saprophytic (obtaining food by absorbing dissolved organic material), or capable of causing disease (pathogenic) in plants or animals. But bacteria are essential for human health too. Bacteria in the intestine, for example, are vital for digestion.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.