The Reality about Bacterial Infection and how can it be Treated
Bacteria are minuscule single-celled organisms that are believed to be related to plants and can exist in different habitats ranging from deserts to ice-bound regions. There are a number of beneficial bacteria like the ones in our stomach that aid digestion but there are some that cause bacterial infections. The latter are known as pathogenic bacteria.
Bacterial Infection Causes
A bacterial infection might be marked by inflammation, localized redness and swelling or pain. Bacteria can be transmitted via:
- Contaminated food or water
- Close contact with a person who has been infected
- Contact with infected faeces
- Breathing in the air in which an infected person has coughed or sneezed
- Touching contaminated surfaces like door knobs, toilet handles, taps, nappies or toys
All these methods of infection are called horizontal transmission- it means that the bacteria are transmitted from one person to another, within the same generation. On the other hand, when the bacterial infection is passed from a mother to her foetus or during childbirth, it is called vertical transmission.
Types of Bacteria
Disease-causing bacteria are typically classified on the basis of their shape and the 4 main groups are:
- Bacilli- These rod-shaped organisms are around 0.03mm in length and cause illnesses like cystitis and typhoid
- Cocci- These spherical-shaped bacteria are around 0.001mm in diameter and could be grouped in long lines, clusters or pairs. The Staphylococci cause a range of infections such as boils while Gonococci cause gonorrhoea, the sexually transmitted infection
- Spirochetes- These tiny spiral-shaped bacteria can cause diseases like syphilis, the sexually transmissible infection
- Vibrio- These are comma-shaped bacteria that cause cholera, which is a tropical disease and is prevalent in the monsoons. The patient exhibits symptoms like dehydration and diarrhoea
Bacterial Infection Treatment
When a person’s body is attacked by any bacterial infection, the body immediately reacts by increasing the blood flow to the affected spot and it also mobilizes the immune system into resisting the attack & destroying the bacteria. The immune system produces antibodies which attach themselves to the bacteria and aid in their destruction. They might also inactivate the toxins that have been produced by certain pathogens, such as diphtheria and tetanus.
The body is able to fend off mild bacterial infections without any medical intervention, but antibiotics are used to treat the more severe infections. These antibiotics disrupt the metabolic processes of the bacterium, but these organisms are also evolving and some antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria have emerged. Some bacterial infections such as whopping cough, tetanus and Haemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib) can be prevented by immunization.
Bacterial Infection vs. Viral Infection
When you suffer from an ailment like a flu or cold, diarrhoea and go to the doctor, he/she may tell you that you are suffering from a bacterial or a viral infection and you will be treated accordingly. So what exactly is the difference between these 2 types of infections. Let’s take a look at what the differentiating factors are.
- As stated earlier bacteria are single-celled organisms and thrive in different environments. Some bacterial strains live in extremes cold or hot climates while others live in the intestines of humans and help in functions like digestion and most bacteria are harmless. Viruses are much smaller than bacteria & will multiply and survive only when they have living hosts like people, animals or plants.
- When a virus enters the body, it then invades some of the cells, takes over the cell mechanism, and redirects it to multiply the virus. One of the key distinctions between bacteria and viruses is that in most cases, antibiotics can effectively kill bacteria but will have no effect on viruses.
Recognize the Symptoms
There are times when it could be very difficult to ascertain whether a particular illness has been caused by bacteria or virus. Ailments like pneumonia, diarrhoea and meningitis may be caused by either of these organisms. If you suffer for symptoms like cough, cold, flu or even diarrhoea, that doesn’t seem to go away even after a few days, consult your doctor who will conduct the required tests and then start you on the appropriate treatment.
Do you remember an episode where you were having a bacterial infection (but not aware) and later told by your doctor that it is a bacterial infection?