The world is full of countless microorganisms that can harm our health. Thankfully, our immune system and the beneficial bacteria in our microbiome help protect us from the majority of these foreign invaders. Still, most of us fall ill from time to time when our bodies cannot fight off specific pathogens. Among the many pathogens that affect us, there are four primary categories—bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
People often understand the difference between bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but parasites are not as well understood by most people. There is also some confusion among many people as to whether viruses and parasites are the same or different. In this article, we will explore the difference between parasites and viruses.
What Are Parasites?
A parasite is an organism that lives inside or on top of another host organism, usually at the expense of that host organism. There are many different types of parasites, most of which are microscopic. Parasites that affect humans rob us of our nutrients and excrete toxic waste inside us—often resulting in negative health effects. The longer that someone has a parasitic infection, the more that infection can spread and the sicker they can become. That is why it is important to get rid of parasites as soon as you can if you have an infection and to "deworm" yourself periodically.
While there are many different parasite species, they generally fall into three categories—helminths, protozoa, and ectoparasites. Helminths are different types of worms and are the largest types of human parasites, some even being visible to the human eye. Protozoa are single-celled parasitic organisms and are typically the deadliest type of parasite (malaria is a protozoa parasite, for example). Ectoparasites are parasites that live outside of the body, as opposed to the other two types, which are endoparasites. Examples of ectoparasites include lice, ticks, fleas, and mites.
What Are Viruses?
Viruses are "microscopic infectious agents that contain genetic material, either DNA or RNA, and must invade a host in order to multiply." (1). Viruses infect all life forms, from animals and plants to microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea. Examples of human viruses include influenza (the common flu), hepatitis C, and the Epstein-Barr virus.
Are Viruses Parasites? How Are Parasites and Viruses Similar?
Viruses and parasites share many similarities, and essentially a virus is a type of parasite because it must invade a host in order to multiply. However, parasites are typically classified as separate from viruses because viruses are what are called "obligate parasites."
Why Are Viruses Called Obligate Intracellular Parasites?
Viruses are obligate parasites because they can only replicate within a living host cell. According to Encyclopedia Britannica:
"They lack metabolic machinery of their own to generate energy or to synthesize proteins, so they depend on host cells to carry out these vital functions. Once inside a cell, viruses have genes for usurping the cell's energy-generating and protein-synthesizing systems." (2)
Are Viruses Parasites?
So, are all viruses parasites? Yes, all viruses are parasites—but they are different from traditional types of parasites as they are classified as obligate parasites. Treatment for getting rid of viruses also differs from treatment methods for parasitic infections.
How Do You Get Rid of Viruses?
Viruses are typically eliminated by antiviral herbs, antiviral medications, or from your body's own immune defenses. According to Cleveland Clinic:
"Antiviral medications can treat certain viruses, putting an end to symptoms. For people with chronic viral infections, antiviral drugs can stop the virus from multiplying and causing problems. The medicine also lowers your chances of giving the virus to others." (3)
Your body also has built-in defenses and immune cells that protect you against viruses, such as phagocytes, lymphocytes, and antibodies. These do not always work, however, depending on the virus, which is why some antiviral medications can be lifesaving.
How Do You Get Rid of Parasites?
Parasites are primarily eliminated by antiparasitic herbs and medications. However, parasites can be quite stubborn. They are experts at hiding in the human body, and often use biofilms to protect them from anti parasitic medications. Biofilms are communities of bacteria that form to strengthen their chances of survival. The plaque on your teeth, pond scum, and the slime that develops on shower tiles are all examples of biofilms.
Some parasites have mutual relationships with bacterial biofilms that allow them to stay alive in the hostile environment of your body. In order to get rid of the parasites, you have to get rid of the biofilms. Biofilms, however, are eliminated from antibacterial agents, whereas parasites are eliminated from antiparasitic agents.
In some cases, broad-spectrum antibiotics are able to kill both parasites and bacterial biofilms. However, these are so potent that they can also kill the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Not only can this lead to certain digestive issues like changes in bowel movements, stomach discomfort, and indigestion, but it can also make you more vulnerable to other types of pathogenic organisms like new bacteria, yeasts, and fungi.
It is common for people to get bacterial or fungal infections after taking antibiotics (4). This is because the beneficial bacteria in your gut fight off the yeasts and fungi in your body. When these bacteria are gone, these organisms can take over. The body may then also be less capable of fighting off new bacteria that it is exposed to.
Because of this, many people choose to eliminate parasites with more natural methods—particularly when they are not infected with a life-threatening parasite like malaria that requires more immediate medical attention.
To get rid of parasites naturally, it is recommended to do a parasite detox cleanse. This is a traditional herbal, dietary, and lifestyle approach to treating parasites that uses specific clinically-studied herbs with a long history of traditional use.
Parasite Detox Protocol
The foundation of a parasite detox protocol is a parasite detox tonic. The traditional parasite tonic used by herbalists for centuries is known as "wormwood complex." This formula includes three powerful antiparasitic herbs—cloves, sweet wormwood, and green black walnut hulls. We use therapeutic extractions of these three herbs in our Parasite Detox Tonic. This formula contains wildcrafted herbs and is highly bioavailable.
In addition to taking a parasite detox tonic, a parasite protocol also involves following an antiparasitic diet, as well as incorporating certain lifestyle practices that support detoxification. Once parasites are eliminated from the body, it is important to focus on rebuilding and strengthening the gut microbiome with beneficial probiotics and good eating habits.
You can read all about our Parasite Detox Protocol here.
There are many microscopic creatures that can affect our health. Our immune system does an incredible job of protecting us from most of these. Still, there are some that make their way past our immune defenses and begin to compromise our health.
Parasites are one group of pathogenic organisms that affect us. These microorganisms live at the expense of our well-being—stealing our nutrients and eliminating their waste inside us. Viruses are also a type of parasite in that they can only replicate within a living host cell. Because of this, they are classified as "obligate parasites."
Though they share some similarities, viruses and parasites are technically different and are also treated differently medically as they are affected by different biochemical compounds. Viruses are typically treated with antiviral medications, while parasites are treated with antiparasitic medications and parasite detox protocols.
Of course, if you believe you have a parasitic or viral infection, it is recommended to consult with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.