Podcast #10 COVID-19: Inside the body: what are viruses, bacteria and cells

In this series, Timothy Trugden and Biritjalawuy Goṉḏarra discuss the names used for COVID-19, how the virus travels, and its effect in the body. Viruses were first discovered by microscopes, and this led to scientists studying and understanding their actions. Viruses and bacteria are both germs, but have differences. Blood has white blood cells that work together to protect the body from germs, as well as red blood cells that carry oxygen. The body is made up of many types of cells.

In Story No.1, Timothy and Biritjalawuy discuss the two different blood cells: red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the body, and white blood cells that search for invading viruses and bacteria cells and destroy them. Red blood cells mostly form in the marrow in three bones: the thigh, skull and spine. Red and white blood cells are very small, bacteria cells are smaller and can only be seen through a microscope. Viruses are even smaller and can only be seen with a very large electron microscope. The white colour of pus is a sign we can see, when many white blood cells are together in one place.

In Story No.2, Timothy and Biritjalawuy explain body cells and how viruses and bacteria family groups are classified by shape, size and action.  Pus is a sign of bacteria, such as boils. Viruses stimulate an immune system response if the body has experienced the same virus before. Our bodies are made up of cells and there are different types of cells for the many parts of the body such as eyes, skin, nose and hair. For example, the white colour that shows when scratching Yolngu skin is dead skin cells. The pink colour seen as skin sores heal are new skin cells, reproducing to repair the damage.

In Story No.3, they discuss how red blood cells form in bone marrow. The body grows by cells specialising to form all body parts, for example, cells to remove waste products from the blood, cells to get energy from food, and cells to form skin and bones. Specific foods help the cells to build the different parts of the body, such as calcium that strengthens bones. After eating foods with calcium, the calcium is taken out of food, put into our blood and moved through our body to our cells.

In Story No.4 Timothy and Biritjalawuy talk about the word ‘cell’ as it has the same spelling as prison ‘cells’. Balanda see these cells as rooms that are side by side. The word ‘cells’ also sounds like ‘shells’, such as seafood, but they are different words with different meanings. Cells  regenerate the body, for example, liver cells can reproduce to heal damage caused by alcohol. In the liver, when many damaged cells are replaced with new cells, the new cells form with a thickened structure, causing scarring and can cause liver cirrhosis.


There are 4 Stories in this podcast. Please see time stamps below:

  • Story No. 1 COVID19 inside the body: What are viruses, bacteria, and cells Part 1              00:00
  • Story No. 2 COVID19 inside the body: What are viruses, bacteria, and cells Part 2              08:10
  • Story No. 3 COVID19 inside the body: What are viruses, bacteria, and cells Part 3              21:36
  • Story No. 4 COVID19 inside the body: What are viruses, bacteria, and cells Part 4              34:42


Click on the links below to listen to the other podcasts in our COVID-19 series: 

Please note: Podcasts 1 & 2 are not currently available online due to the unfortunate death of one of our presenters.