Differences and Similarities Between Bacteria and Fungi

Bacteria are microscopic unicellular organisms found almost everywhere on the Earth. These are critical for ecosystems as they effortlessly recycle nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur. These can also cause harmful diseases to humans, animals, and plants. Some bacterial species can grow in extreme conditions like high temperature, low pH, and high pressure. 

Fungi are microscopic unicellular or multicellular organisms. Most fungi inhabit soil and dead organisms and play a crucial role in mineralizing organic carbon. Fungi are opportunistic pathogens. But mainly, these decay and decompose food, dead animals, and plants.

The significant difference between bacteria and fungi is their cell; bacteria are prokaryotes, and fungi are eukaryotes. In addition, bacteria and fungi have differences in their growth requirements, cell wall components, size, morphology, colony characteristics, and treatment methods.  

Although bacteria (Monera) and fungi (Mycota) have many differences, they have similarities as well. Both have true cell walls and many beneficial properties, and some species of both kingdoms can cause serious diseases.

Difference between bacteria and fungi
Bacteria and fungi under microscope

Similarities Between Bacteria and Fungi

  • Both are microscopic organisms.
  • Fungi and bacteria have a cell wall made up of polysaccharides. Although the components of the cell walls are different, all species of bacteria and fungi have a true cell wall.
  • Some bacteria like Lactobacillus are used as probiotics, Staphylococcus epidermidis as normal skin flora that protects skin from infection, and Escherichia coli in the gut benefit humans. Likewise, yeast is helpful in the production of alcohol and bakery items.
  • Some species of both phyla can cause serious illness. Like aspergilloma (fungus ball) by Aspergillus species, a fungus that can seriously damage the lungs of an infected human. Likewise, cholera by Vibrio cholerae and typhoid by Salmonella species are some of the life-threatening water-borne bacterial diseases.
  • Both of the organisms can be saprophytic or parasitic. E coli and Spirochetes are saprophytic bacteria, whereas almost all fungi are saprophytic.
  • Both bacteria and fungi are heterotrophs, meaning they can grow and feed on plants and animals.
  • Both bacteria and fungi require heat, nutrition, and moisture for growth.
  • The optimum temperature for bacteria and fungi that can cause human infections is 37℃

Difference Between Bacteria and Fungi

PropertiesBacteriaFungi
CellProkaryoticEukaryotic
KingdomBacteria belongs to the kingdom Monera.Fungi belong to the kingdom Mycota.
Optimum growth pH6.5-7.53.8-5.6
Optimum temperature20-37℃ (mesophiles)22-30℃ (saprophytes) 30-37℃ (parasitic)
Light requirementSome photosyntheticNone
Sugar concentration for in vitro growth0.5-1%4-5%
Carbon requirement Inorganic or organicOrganic
Oxygen requirementAerobic or anaerobicStrict aerobes or facultative aerobes
Cell wall componentsPeptidoglycanChitin, cellulose, or hemicellulose
Antibiotic susceptibilityResistant to griseofulvin, susceptible to penicillin, tetracyclines, and chloramphenicolResistant to penicillin, tetracyclines, and chloramphenicol but sensitive to griseofulvin
MorphologySpiral, coccus, and bacillus (rod) are common morphologyHyphae (mold) and yeast are the common morphological forms.
SizeBacteria are smaller in comparison to fungi (average size: about 1-5 microns).The fungi are larger than bacteria (average size: about 5-50 micrometers).
ReproductionBacteria reproduce asexually (binary fission).Reproduction occurs sexually as well as asexually by spores.
SporesBacteria produce spores under unfavorable conditions for survival.Fungal spores are used for reproduction. 
MobilitySome have flagella for movement.Fungi are non-motile.
RibosomeBacteria have prokaryotic ribosomes (70S ribosomes).Fungi have eukaryotic ribosomes (80S ribosomes).
Transmission Bacterial infection transmits by blood, body fluids, air, water, direct contact, and food.Fungal infections transmit by spores.
Location of genetic materialThe genetic material is localized in nucleoids in the cytoplasm.The genetic material is enclosed inside the nucleus.
Incubation timeBacterial colonies grow overnight invitro. Fungal colonies require at least 2-4 days for growth in-vitro condition.
General purpose culture media Nutrient agar and peptone water are generally used for non-fastidious bacteria. SDA (Sabouraud’s dextrose agar), malt extract agar, and PDA (potato dextrose agar) are the general purpose media used for fungi.
Staining technique usedStaining techniques like Gram staining, capsule staining, Giemsa staining, etc., are useful while observing bacteria.Fungi are not stained but mounted using LCPB (lactophenol cotton blue) or KOH. If stained Grocott’s silver stain and periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) are used commonly for observing under the microscope.
Colony morphologyBacterial colonies are smooth, rough, or smooth with defined margins.Fungal colonies are cottony, large and have a fuzzy appearance

References

  • Madiga, M., Martinko, J., Stahl, D., & Clark, D. (2012). Brock Biology of Microorganisms (13th ed., p. 601). Pearson Education.
  • Pelczar Jr., M., Chan, E., & Krieg, N. (2007). Microbiology (5th ed., pp. 334). Tata McGraw-Hill.

Ashma Shrestha

Hello, I am Ashma Shrestha. I am currently pursuing my Master's Degree in Microbiology. Passionate about writing and blogging. Key interest in virology and molecular biology

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