Streptococcus vs. Streptomyces

What's the Difference?

Streptococcus and Streptomyces are two distinct genera of bacteria that share a similar name but have significant differences in their characteristics and behavior. Streptococcus is a Gram-positive, spherical-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the human respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. It is known for causing various infections, including strep throat and pneumonia. On the other hand, Streptomyces is a Gram-positive, filamentous bacterium that is widely distributed in soil and water environments. It is renowned for its ability to produce a vast array of bioactive compounds, including antibiotics, which have been instrumental in the development of many life-saving drugs. While Streptococcus is primarily associated with human infections, Streptomyces plays a crucial role in the production of antibiotics and contributes significantly to the field of pharmaceutical research.


Cell ShapeSpherical or ovoidFilamentous
Cell ArrangementChains or pairsIrregular clusters or chains
Gram StainGram-positiveGram-positive
Cell Wall CompositionPeptidoglycanPeptidoglycan
RespirationFacultative anaerobeAerobic
MetabolismFermentativePrimarily aerobic
PathogenicityMany species are pathogenicSome species produce antibiotics

Further Detail


Streptococcus and Streptomyces are two distinct genera of bacteria that share a similar name but have significant differences in their attributes. Streptococcus is a well-known pathogenic bacterium responsible for various infections in humans, while Streptomyces is a genus of bacteria known for its ability to produce a wide range of antibiotics and other bioactive compounds. In this article, we will explore and compare the attributes of these two bacteria, highlighting their unique characteristics and contributions to the field of microbiology.

Morphology and Arrangement

Streptococcus bacteria are spherical or ovoid in shape, appearing as chains or pairs under a microscope. They are Gram-positive bacteria, meaning they retain the crystal violet stain during the Gram staining process. Streptococcus cells lack spores and are non-motile. On the other hand, Streptomyces bacteria have a filamentous or mycelial morphology, resembling fungi. They form branching hyphae that differentiate into aerial mycelium, producing spores called conidia. These conidia are responsible for the dispersal of Streptomyces bacteria. Unlike Streptococcus, Streptomyces are Gram-positive bacteria with a high G+C content in their DNA.

Metabolism and Growth

Streptococcus bacteria are facultative anaerobes, capable of growing in both the presence and absence of oxygen. They obtain energy through fermentation, primarily producing lactic acid as a byproduct. Streptococcus species are fastidious, requiring complex media for growth and often exhibiting specific nutritional requirements. In contrast, Streptomyces bacteria are aerobic organisms that require oxygen for growth. They are known for their ability to degrade complex organic compounds, making them important decomposers in soil ecosystems. Streptomyces species are also capable of producing a wide range of secondary metabolites, including antibiotics, antifungals, and antitumor agents.

Ecological Roles

Streptococcus bacteria are commonly found in the human microbiota, inhabiting various body sites such as the oral cavity, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract. While some Streptococcus species are commensal, others can cause diseases ranging from mild infections like strep throat to severe conditions such as pneumonia and meningitis. Streptococcus pyogenes, for example, is responsible for streptococcal pharyngitis, commonly known as strep throat. On the other hand, Streptomyces bacteria are primarily found in soil environments, playing a crucial role in the decomposition of organic matter. They contribute to the nutrient cycling process and are involved in the production of antibiotics that help protect plants from pathogens.

Antibiotic Production

One of the most significant differences between Streptococcus and Streptomyces lies in their ability to produce antibiotics. Streptococcus bacteria are not known for their antibiotic production. Instead, they are often associated with antibiotic resistance, making them a significant concern in healthcare settings. In contrast, Streptomyces bacteria are renowned for their prolific production of antibiotics. They have been a valuable source of numerous clinically important antibiotics, including streptomycin, tetracycline, erythromycin, and vancomycin. The ability of Streptomyces to produce antibiotics has revolutionized the field of medicine, providing essential tools for combating bacterial infections.

Genetic Diversity

Streptococcus bacteria exhibit a relatively low level of genetic diversity within their species. However, they can undergo genetic transformation, acquiring new genetic material from their environment. This ability contributes to the spread of antibiotic resistance genes among Streptococcus populations. In contrast, Streptomyces bacteria have a high level of genetic diversity, with each species having a large genome size and a complex genetic makeup. This genetic diversity allows Streptomyces to produce a wide range of bioactive compounds and adapt to various environmental conditions.


In conclusion, Streptococcus and Streptomyces are two distinct genera of bacteria with contrasting attributes. Streptococcus is a pathogenic bacterium commonly found in the human microbiota, causing a range of infections. In contrast, Streptomyces is a soil-dwelling bacterium known for its antibiotic production and role in organic matter decomposition. While Streptococcus is associated with antibiotic resistance, Streptomyces has provided a vast array of antibiotics that have revolutionized medicine. Understanding the attributes of these bacteria is crucial for advancing our knowledge of microbiology and developing strategies to combat bacterial infections.

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