Feeds

What is the difference between a virus and a bacterium?

Pesky pathogens

High performance access to file storage

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

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.