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When someone is sick, it is often obvious that the person is not feeling well. What is not as obvious, however, is the cause of the person’s illness. There are many types of infectious agents, and bacteria represent just one of these types of germs.

What Size and Shape Are Bacteria?

Bacteria are microorganisms, also known as microbes, and cannot be seen without a microscope. Compared to the height of the average human being, the average microbe is about a million times smaller. If you could line up a thousand bacteria, you would be able to fit them across the end of the eraser on a pencil.

Common shapes for bacteria include spheres (cocci), spirals (spirilla), rods (bacilli), and commas (vibrii). It is also possible, though rare, for bacteria to look like squares or stars or to have no regular shape.

Are All Bacteria Harmful?

Not only are bacteria not always harmful, some of them can actually be helpful. The bacteria that live in the intestines of human beings can provide the body with nutrients, aid in the digestive process, and eliminate some of the organisms that cause disease.

There are, however, types of bacteria that do cause infections. Some invade the body’s cells and cause tissue damage. Other bacteria produce powerful chemicals, known as toxins, that wreak havoc in people’s cells and make them feel ill. These microbes are responsible for infections such as tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, and strep throat. In order to prevent the spread of disease, people can thoroughly wash and dry their hands, avoid germ-covered objects, and limit close contact with those who are sick.

What Are Some Other Types of Germs?

In addition to bacteria, there are various types of other infectious agents. Some examples include fungi, helminths, protozoans, and viruses. When these microbes enter a person’s body and start multiplying, this process leads to what is known as infection. As the cells of the body become damaged due to infection, and the person begins to exhibit symptoms of illness, the disease is said to have occurred.

Do Viruses and Bacteria Cause the Same Illnesses?

Both viruses and bacteria can make people sick, but the diseases that they cause are very different. An infection with a virus can result in the common cold, influenza, measles, genital herpes, AIDS, chickenpox and shingles, and the Ebola virus. Depending on the type of germ that is present, the disease that occurs will receive a different treatment. Many bacteria can be destroyed with antibiotics, but viruses will remain unaffected.

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