What Are Viral and Bacterial Infections?

Viral and bacterial infections share many commonalities—one of which is making people very sick. For those with compromised health, infections can be extremely dangerous and can often lead to hospitalization. According to Web MD, both types of infections are caused by microbes, which can be spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, kissing, and touching contaminated objects and surfaces.

MORE: Removing antibodies from the bloodstream may reduce lung infections in bronchiectasis.

Viral and bacterial infections can also be contracted through animal and insect bites. In most cases, our immune system deals very well with viral and bacterial infections and they clear up quickly. In other cases, they can lead to three types of illnesses: an acute infection, which is short-lived and may need medications to clear; a chronic infection which can last for several weeks, months or even be with a person for life; and latent infections which do not occur straight away but activate later in a person’s life.

The differences between viral and bacterial infections are important. Bacterial infections are usually fairly harmless and often help the body, aiding digestion and fighting diseases, including cancer. They don’t need a host to survive as they can reproduce on their own. However, for bronchiectasis patients, they can cause frequent lung infections and COPD patients with bronchiectasis have more bacterial infections than those without it. 

Viral infections need a host to survive and they multiply by attaching to cells. Viruses are more dangerous than bacteria as they do cause diseases.

In some infections, like pneumonia and diarrhea, it’s difficult to determine whether it was caused by bacteria or a virus and testing may be required. The different types of infections are treated in different ways; antibiotics are used to fight bacterial infections and are ineffective against viral infections. Treating viral infections is more challenging, although antiviral medications are constantly improving.

MORE: Everything you need to know about bronchiectasis.

Bronchiectasis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.