Questions about Bacteria, Viruses, and Antibiotics

Questions about Bacteria, Viruses, and Antibiotics

Q: What are bacteria and viruses?

A: Bacteria are single-celled organisms found all over the inside and outside of our bodies. Many bacteria are not harmful. In fact, some are actually helpful, including the majority of bacteria that live in our intestines (guts). However, disease-causing bacteria can cause illnesses such as strep throat. Viruses, on the other hand, are microbes that are even smaller than bacteria and cannot survive outside the body’s cells. They cause illness by invading healthy cells.


Q: What is an antibiotic?

A: Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobial drugs, are drugs that fight infections caused by bacteria in both humans and animals. Antibiotics fight these infections either by killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply. Antibiotics only treat certain bacterial infections. Antibiotics do not have any effect on viruses.

Any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance.


Q: Which infections are caused by viruses and should not be treated with antibiotics?

A: Viral infections should not be treated with antibiotics. Common infections caused by viruses include:

•             Colds

•             Flu

•             Most sore throats


Follow our next issues of The Prescription to have questions answered on Antibiotic Resistance and Antimicrobial Cleaning Agents, Acne Medication, and Probiotics.