When dealing with diseases and ailments, being educated and informed can be the difference between life and death. Just relying on common knowledge, or what you learned in school as a kid, isn’t enough. Learn the attributes and characteristics of both viruses and parasites so that you can become an advocate for your own well being.
To better understand their differences, let’s take a look at their basic definitions, physical characteristics, and their classifications.
What is a Virus?
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a Virus is “Any of a large group of submicroscopic infectious agents that are usually regarded as non living extremely complex molecules.”
Viruses are incredibly tiny. To be precise, they range in size from 15-350 nanometers, a size only visible through the use of an electron microscope. Viruses are considered non-cellular structures, composed of a piece of DNA or RNA surrounded by a slim coating of proteins. Some possess additional protection in the form of a lipid carbohydrate envelope.
A virus can be in one of two states. Either they are Intracellular, a state in which they are active inside of a host cell, or they are Extracellular, a state in which they are inactive, but have the ability to transfer that DNA or RNA from cell to cell.
What is a Parasite?
On the other hand, a Parasite is “An organism living in, with, or on another organism.” A parasite can vary widely in size. They can be as small as a few micrometers, and as huge as several meters. Parasites are classified as eukaryotes (an organism made up of a cell or cells), and therefore share certain characteristics with human cells, such as the possession of a nucleus.
How Do Viruses and Parasites Differ?
If you are infected with a virus or bacteria, you’ll want to know exactly how they are different from each other. Well, viruses are only active while intracellular. This means they are inside the cells of your body, taking control of that cell’s mechanisms and stealing its energy. Parasites, however, can live on the surface of your body or inside your organs and tissues.
Reproduction is another major difference between the two. A parasite doesn’t need the host in order to replicate, and it can do so both sexually and asexually (although in most cases they are asexual). A virus is, as we’ve established, inactive while outside of a host cell. Because of this, it cannot reproduce outside of the cell.
Lastly, the terminology for infections also differ. If you have been infected by a parasite and are experiencing related symptoms you have parasitoses. These symptoms might involve muscle pain or weakness, skin irritation, vomiting and other stomach issues, and a plethora of other afflictions. Conversely, if you’ve been infected by a virus, it is simply called a viral infection. In this case, the symptoms would include anything from a runny nose with a common cold to pain while urinating from a UTI, and much more.
Using the above information of how parasites and viruses are different from each other, continue to research signs of related illnesses so that you can speak with and work with your doctor to get the best treatment possible.