What Are the Differences Between an Antibacterial and Antifungal?

Antibiotics are key in stopping strep throat and other common infections from becoming much more serious.
An antifungal remedy would be used to treat athlete's foot.
Antifungal soaps may help prevent athlete's foot and jock itch.
Harmful bacteria are responsible for illnesses such as urinary tract infections.
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  • Written By: H. Lo
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 05 December 2014
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It might be easy to confuse an antibacterial with an antifungal because both are used to fight microorganisms, or germs. In general, there is one major difference between an antibacterial and antifungal. The difference is that an antibacterial primarily fights bacteria, while an antifungal fights fungus.

There are many types of bacteria and fungus, but only some of them are actually harmful to the human body. For example, only about 1 percent of all bacteria is responsible for illnesses that require antibacterial treatment. Various other bacteria live within the human body and perform helpful functions. Like bacteria, there are also good and bad types of fungus. While some fungus will cause a fungal infection, other types of fungus, such as various mushrooms, are usually harmless.

It is the harmful bacteria and fungus that require the use of an antibacterial and antifungal, respectively. Harmful bacteria are responsible for illnesses such as strep throat, tuberculosis and urinary tract infections. Fungus, on the other hand, cause conditions such as athlete’s foot, oral thrush and yeast infections. Since different conditions are caused by different types of bacteria and fungus, each one might require a different antibacterial and/or antifungal to treat. To fight microorganisms, antibacterials and antifungals might come in various forms, including oral, injection or topical forms.


The type and form of an antibacterial or antifungal that a person uses depends on his or her condition. This is because one type of antibacterial or antifungal does not fight all types of bacteria or fungus. At the same time, an antibacterial or antifungal might fight several different types. In fact, an antibacterial might also fight a fungal infection, depending on the specific antibacterial and fungus. Sometimes, a person might use a combination of antibacterials or antifungals to fight a certain infection.

Although the use of antibacterials and antifungals has its place, the misuse of either one can prove to be not only futile, but also dangerous. For example, a person who uses the wrong type of antifungal for his or her condition will find that the treatment has no effect on the fungus. Or a person who does not finish a course of antibacterial medication might find that the same antibacterial will not work in treating the same bacterial infection in the future. This is because bacteria has the ability to develop a resistance to antibacterial treatment, which can happen if a person stops taking his or her antibacterial medication before a bacterial infection completely clears.


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Post 3

I heard that anti-fungal medications are very hard on the liver. I don't use them unless it's absolutely necessary. But I do use antibacterials often, I don't they they are as harmful.

Post 2

@literally45-- Antimicrobial is the general name given for agents that kill harmful microorganisms. But antimicrobial agents are usually used in a hospital setting, I'm not sure if it's possible to find them over-the-counter at the pharmacy.

You could get both an antibacterial ointment and an anti-fungal ointment and use them together. If you want to know exactly what type of ointment you need, you will have to see a doctor.

Be careful when you use antimicrobial products. If you use them too frequently, the bacteria and fungi develop resistance to them. The less you use them, the more effective they are.

Post 1

Where can I find an antibacterial and anti-fungal ointment in one? Is there a different name for it?

I've been hiking and my hiking boots have caused a sore on my foot. I'm scared it's going to get infected. I know I need an antibacterial ointment but I used to have athlete's foot before. So I want to use both an antibacterial and an anti-fungal to make sure.

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