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"Virus" vs "Bacteria" in Chinese


jbradfor

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I was trying to explain, in Chinese, why we don't give antibiotics for colds/flus here. I quickly realized that just using "病菌" or "霉" or "細菌", the only words I knew regarding "germs", wasn't going to cut it. So went to MDBG to try to find the specific Chinese words for "Virus" and "Bacteria".

I was unsuccessful.

Outside of the medical community, are there commonly used words in Chinese that clearly distinguish between these two very different organisms?

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I can't help, but I also have experienced the difficultly of trying to explain these things to my in-laws who take a single amoxycillin tablet when they have a sore throat! The public health implications of this if it is repeated across the whole country are awful.

Another related question is that given that most people seem to think that colds are caused by being cold, why do they bother with antibiotics at all? In my experience, microbiological theories of disease haven't really yet caught on in China. At least with my friends and family, even if you can get them to agree in abstract terms that these things are infections caused by microbiological agents, they still in practice behave as if this weren't the case.

I guess in China, like in France, prescribing antibiotics is just what doctors are expected to do and if they don't do it then patients will feel they haven't been treated properly. Surely, it's just a matter of time until China is seriously affected by a 'superbug'.

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Thanks kenny2006woo.

病毒 was my guess for virus, but I was just checking.

細菌, however, I think I've seen used for more than just what we call Bacteria. It seems to be used for any infectious microorganism. Both baidu and hudong, for example, give "germ" as one translation. While the baidu article just seems to discuss bacteria (from what I can understand!), the hudong article says in part "可粗分为6种类型,即细菌(狭义)、放线菌、蓝细菌、支原体、立克次氏体和衣原体。", which, if I understand this correctly, is giving other common meanings for 細菌.

@James Johnston, I didn't want to go there as it's been discussed before, but I feel your pain. In discussing why China gives antibiotics for colds, she said that when she gets sick, she goes to the hospital to get an IV antibiotic, and in 4 days she feels better! So it must work....

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細菌, however, I think I've seen used for more than just what we call Bacteria. It seems to be used for any infectious microorganism.

I am afraid not. There’re clear differences between 细菌 and 病毒, one kind of infectious microorganism.

Both baidu and hudong, for example, give "germ" as one translation. While the baidu article just seems to discuss bacteria (from what I can understand!), the hudong article says in part "可粗分为6种类型,即细菌(狭义)、放线菌、蓝细菌、支原体、立克次氏体和衣原体。", which, if I understand this correctly, is giving other common meanings for 細菌.

No, they both focus on 细菌 which in its broadest sense is 原核生物(bacteria), therefore in its less-than-broad sense and daily use, 细菌 is actually a subcategory of bacteria or 原核生物.

Germs consist of bacterium, viruses, fungi and protozoa, therefore it’s not entirely right to render it as 细菌. I suggest we call germs 细菌病毒.

Just call me Kenny. :)

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You may need antibiotics for sore throat. Bacterial tonsillitis is not uncommon especially among children. Early treatment can prevent complications.

I don't think there should be any confusion with the translation here as these words, 細菌 and 病毒 are direct translation from western languages of which the concepts did not exist in Chinese at all. So the meaning of these words also strictly correspond to their western counterpart.

細菌, or bacteria do not have to be infectious, in other word, pathogenic; as long as it meets the criteria, the particular microorganism can then be classified as bacterium. FYI, 放線菌(Actinobacteria), 藍細菌(Cyanobacteria), 支原體(Mycoplasma), 立克次氏體(Rickettsia) and 衣原體(Chlamydia) and many other microorganisms are all bacteria in a microbiological sense. Bacteria as a domain under scientific classification include much more members than the common one we may have heard of such as strep or staph.

I think germ is normally translated as 病菌 in Chinese, as kenny also has mentioned in his posts, which is normally not treated as scientific term.

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You may need antibiotics for sore throat.

Not usually, but perhaps for a persistent sore throat that was not getting better after a few days or if there was also a fever, swollen tonsils or obvious exudate. However, my point was that you should never take just a single tablet of antibiotic of normal dosage; you need to complete a full course. To do otherwise increases the likelihood of creating strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

But returning to the issue of how to express such ideas in Chinese, how would you say something like:

"Not completing a full course of antibiotics increases the likelihood of creating strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics"

"Using antibiotics in this way might benefit the individual, but it presents a risk to the health of the population as a whole".

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"Not completing a full course of antibiotics increases the likelihood of creating strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics"

不按疗程服完抗生素会增加耐药菌株出现的机会。

"Using antibiotics in this way might benefit the individual, but it presents a risk to the health of the population as a whole"

如此使用抗生素也许对个体有益,但却是公众健康之患。

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Thanks to all (except DecafLat) for those responses. I don't think I'll be changing anyone's mind about how to treat diseases, but at least I have a better vocabulary and understanding.

@DecafLat, I did. and google. and baidu. But I was asking about how the words are commonly used by lay-people in everyday speech, not their technical definitions.

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> "Using antibiotics in this way might benefit the individual, but it presents a risk to the health of the population as a whole".

There are people who know that they are almost surely going to develop a bronchitis or pneumonia after a flu or sore throat. Based on their past experience. In the U.S., such a person is in big trouble, because he cannot buy an antibiotic he needs in the drugstore. He has to beg and pray (and pay) to the doctor to prescribe him an antibiotic while he can still prevent the complication from developing, but the doctor keeps repeating the above phrase, in a condescending tone. Just read that phrase again, see how it sounds on you. The risk to the population as a whole is one over googol if any, but the risk to the individual may be very real, painful, and disruptive.

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Thank you for your translations xiaocai.

Dreamon said:

The risk to the population as a whole is one over googol if any, but the risk to the individual may be very real, painful, and disruptive.

The risks of doing this across the whole population are 1:1. It's already happened.

The risk of dying in the UK each year from an MRSA related condition is about 1:60000.

In the US, the situation may be worse. It's estimated that more people die of MRSA related conditions than of AIDS. The chances of contracting HIV if you don't use a condom once are very slim, but if no one used them infection rates would rapidly increase.

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James Johnston> The chances of contracting HIV if you don't use a condom once are very slim, but if no one used them infection rates would rapidly increase.

Are you comparing the benefits of not using condom to the benefits of using an antibiotic to prevent flu complications? :) Or, the risk of contracting AIDS from an untrusted partner to the risk to be precisely the one host (among all people and animals ever taking the antibiotic) who gives rise to a new resistant bacterial strain? [Which incidentally implies that the host had that bacteria in his/her body, i.e. the antibiotic use was justified...]

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  • 4 months later...
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I am a Taiwanese student studying Biology.

In my opinion,

Virus=病毒

Bacteria=細菌

Mold=黴菌

(Even though it contains "菌",

educated people know that molds are fungi.)

For many people (who didn't learn much about Biology),

it is common for them to confuse these ideas.

That's why many people translate germs as 病菌.

(They don't really know what it is... some of them even think microorganisms are the same.

"菌" for them, can mean any microorganisms, not only bacteria.)

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