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Difference Between Antibiotics and Vaccines

capsules-antibiotic-pillsAntibiotics vs. Vaccines

An antibiotic is a compound or a substance that inhibits or kills the growth of bacteria. It belongs to the group of antimicrobial compounds, which is used to treat the infections caused by microorganisms. Antibiotics are from the class one of antimicrobial.

Antimicrobial is a group which also includes anti-parasitic, anti-fungal and anti-viral drugs. These are used to treat infection but are harmless to the host. Antibiotics were named magic bullet drugs which without harming the host kills the bacteria. On the other hand, it is not effective in fungal, viral and non bacterial infections. The bacteria which attacks our immune system, starts reproducing and causes disease. The antibiotic kills the bacteria and eliminates the disease. For example, in an ear infection, bacteria go into the inner ear and the ear starts to inflame or the host experiences pain. One can kill the bacteria and eliminate the pain by taking antibiotics.

Antibiotics are not effective on viruses because viruses are not alive. It is just a piece of RNA or DNA whereas bacteria are living organisms which reproduce rapidly. Antibiotic cannot cure disease like cancer because cancer is neither a bacteria nor a virus.

Vaccine is a preparation that improves the immunity to a particular disease. It contains a little amount of an agent, which resembles microorganisms. This agent enters the body and interacts with the immune system and stimulates it so that it can recognize the microorganism and destroy it. Once it is recognized, the immune system remembers it and destroys these microorganisms in later encounter.

There are many types of vaccines available in the market. Microorganisms are killed by chemical or heat. Vaccines are effective against diseases like cholera, flu, polio, hepatitis A, and plague and bubonic. Some vaccines contain live attenuated virus microorganisms, which have been cultivated under conditions that disable their virulent properties.

Vaccines cannot cure disease like cancer. Vaccines have eradicated many diseases like small pox, rubella, mumps, polio, typhoid and chickenpox which are some common and dangerous diseases for years. The most contagious and deadly disease among all of these are the small pox.

An antibiotic kills bacteria whereas vaccine deals with the virus, and improves the immune system. A vaccine prevents diseases like polio, small pox, chicken pox, etc. which are caused by a virus. An antibiotic heals infection caused by bacteria. Vaccines prevent the virus from infecting again once it is given to a person because it stays in the immune system.


1)Vaccine kills virus while antibiotics kill bacteria.
2)Vaccine is taken once and has permanent effect whereas antibiotics work during the time of disease.
3)Antibiotics are available in different forms like tablets, capsules, drops or ointments. Vaccines can be given orally or through injection.
4)Vaccines are preventive method that is taken before getting infected. Antibiotics are taken after getting infected.

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  1. Very interesting post!

    I always feel that the problem with antibiotics is that they kill all the bacteria in the system, the good as well as the bad, often resulting in a lowered immune system. I have a friend who always gets thrush when she takes antibiotics, so I prefer not to take them unless absolutely essential.

    what does everyone else think about this?

  2. Ummm.

    To your summary point (#3): “Vaccine is taken once and has permanent effect…”

    This isn’t exactly true. Were it in fact true people would not need “boosters” right?

    Also, in reply to the first comment: Too true, antibiotics are the “nuclear option” when it comes to the ecology which is the human system. While providing an absolutely necessary option in disease response, they should never be the FIRST choice (IANAD)…

    IMHO: Survival of a disease provides a more permanent effect than vaccination.

  3. There are some problems with this article. Apart from grammatical issues, some of the information is misleading.

    For example, while it is true that antibiotics are only effective against bacteria and not viruses, vaccines can be made for bacteria as well as viruses. The article even talks about vaccines being effective against diseases like cholera, which is a disease caused by a species of bacteria.

    Secondly, not all vaccines are taken only once. Some have a lasting effect on the body, while others may only work for a couple of years (think the flu shot).

    Thirdly, it is misleading to use the word “eradicate” when speaking of organisms that all still exist in the world (even small pox viruses are still kept in a few labs). Generally when a scientist says a disease has been “eradicated”, it means it no longer exists. It has been made extinct (except, perhaps, for the small samples kept in labs). There are only two diseases that have been eradicated by this definition, small pox being one of them. Even polio is still a problem in underdeveloped countries, though we are progressing towards eradication of this disease.

    Hope this helps.

  4. I want to know the difference between antibiotic and combiotic.
    I have enphizema and if I catch a cold or a flu my lungs get inflamated and high temperature and MD to prevent a neumonia, he prescribes pills / combiotics to control the fiber.
    Next time that I get sick the MD changes the combiotic formula
    I will appreciate very much for an answer.
    I live in South America, Bolivia

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