Understanding Antibiotics vs Antivirals

Antibiotics vs antivirals


Antibiotics and antivirals- what’s the difference and how do they work to help a cold and flu? Read on to find out more about these common medications.

Antibiotics and antivirals are medications that can treat bacterial infections and viruses. An antibiotic will be prescribed for bacterial infections, while an antiviral is to help with a viral infection. Different varieties of antibiotics and antivirals are targeted toward different illnesses and circumstances surrounding the patient, so it is important to consult with a medical professional for the best advice.

The Difference Between An Antibiotic And An Antiviral

Antibiotics and antivirals are two types of prescription medications, but they are not at all the same.

Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, whereas antiviral medications are effective against viruses. While it might seem that these two things are interchangeable, they are not.

Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and antivirals are not effective against bacterial infections, although, in circumstances where a virus causes a secondary bacterial infection, they may both be used to treat the two different illnesses.

What is an antibiotic?

Antibiotics are used for the treatment of bacterial infections, such as acne, bronchitis, ear infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Bacteria are prokaryotes, which are single-celled organisms that can occur as gram-positive or gram-negative forms. Bacteria can communicate between cells using chemical signalling, which can lead to the phenomenon known as antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics treat the illness by either making it impossible for the bacteria to multiply or by killing the bacteria.

Antibiotics and antivirals


What is an Antiviral?

Antivirals are used for the treatment of viral infections, such as herpes, influenza, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Viruses are groups of molecules made up of genetic material (DNA or RNA), with a protein layer and sometimes an envelope of fat.

Unlike bacteria, which can survive and replicate outside of a host, viruses need a host to multiply. Antiviral drugs treat viruses by invading the viral clusters and either preventing them from multiplying or killing the viral cells.

Viruses Antibiotics and antivirals


Key Takeaways

Antibiotics and antivirals are not the same, but they can be effective against bacterial infections and viruses with oversight from a medical professional. As with all prescription medications, whether they be antibiotics, antivirals, or antidepressants, learning about your medication and seeking good advice is key to successful treatment. Talk to your doctor.

About the Author

  • Dr Ganesh Naidoo

    BSc(biomed), MBBS, FRACGP is an Australian General Practitioner. He has significant clinical experience in multiple regions of Australia and has a passion for health transformation to improve clinical outcomes for all patients.

Join the Medmate Community!

Receive free expert health advice from Australian doctors and health advisors. Join the Medmate community now - just what the doctor ordered.

Health Information I Medication Education & Tips I Patient Stories & Videos.