Aetiology of Bacterial and Viral Infections: What’s the Variance?

The microorganism uses that person’s body to sustain itself, reproduce, and colonize. These infectious microscopic organisms are known as pathogens, and they can multiply quickly. Examples of pathogens include:

  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • fungi
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They can spread in several different ways, including through:

  • skin contact
  • the transfer of bodily fluids
  • contact with feces
  • ingesting contaminated food or water
  • inhaling airborne particles or droplets
  • touching an object that a person carrying the pathogen has also touched.

Viral infections occur due to infection with a virus. Millions of different viruses may exist, but researchers have only identified about 5,000 types to date. Viruses contain a small piece of genetic code, and a coat of protein and lipid (fat) molecules protects them. Viruses invade a host and attach themselves to a cell. As they enter the cell, they release their genetic material. This material forces the cell to replicate the virus, and the virus multiplies. When the cell dies, it releases new viruses, which infect new cells. Not all viruses destroy their host cell, however. Some of them change the function of the cell. Some viruses, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), can lead to cancer by forcing cells to replicate in an uncontrolled way.

How bacterial infections spread?

Many bacterial infections are contagious, meaning that they can be transmitted from person to person. There are many ways this can occur, including:

  • close contact with a person who has a bacterial infection, including touching and kissing
  • contact with the body fluids of a person who has an infection, particularly after sexual contact or when the person coughs or sneezes
  • transmission from mother to child during pregnancy or birth
  • coming into contact with surfaces contaminated with the bacteria, such as doorknobs or faucet handles and then touching your face, nose, or mouth

In addition to being transmitted from person to person, bacterial infections can also be transmitted through the bite of an infected insect. Additionally, consuming contaminated food or water can also lead to an infection.

Some examples of bacterial infections include:

  • strep throat
  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • bacterial food poisoning
  • cholera
  • diphtheria
  • dysentery
  • bubonic plague
  • tuberculosis
  • typhoid
  • typhus
  • bacterial meningitis
  • otitis media
  • pneumonia
  • tuberculosis
  • food poisoning
  • eye infections
  • sinusitis (again, more often viral)
  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • skin infections
  • gonorrhoea
  • tuberculosis
  • bacterial meningitis
  • cellulitis
  • Lyme disease
  • Tetanus

Some examples of viral conditions include:

  • Zika virus
  • HIV
  • hepatitis C
  • polio
  • influenza (flu), including H1N1 swine flu
  • Dengue fever
  • Ebola
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV)

When you experience symptoms such as nausea, diarrhoea, or abdominal cramps, you likely have a stomach bug. But is it due to a viral or bacterial infection?

Stomach bugs generally fall into two categories based on how they’re acquired:

  • Gastroenteritis is an infection of the digestive tract. It’s caused by coming into contact with stool or vomit from a person with the infection.
  • Food poisoning is an infection of the digestive tract caused by consuming contaminated food or liquids.

Gastroenteritis and food poisoning can be caused by both viruses and bacteria. Regardless of the cause, many times your symptoms will go away in a day or two with good home care. However, symptoms that last longer than 3 days, cause bloody diarrhoea, or lead to severe dehydration may indicate a more severe infection that requires prompt medical treatment.

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Prevention

There is no single method for preventing all infectious diseases. However, people should take the following steps to reduce the risk of transmission:

  • Wash the hands often, especially before and after preparing food and after using the bathroom.
  • Clean surface areas and avoid keeping perishable food at room temperature for too long while preparing a meal.
  • Receive any recommended vaccinations and keep them up to date.
  • Only take antibiotics with a prescription and be sure to complete the recommended course, even if symptoms improve at an earlier stage.
  • Disinfect rooms that may have high concentrations of bacteria, such as the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by receiving regular STI checks, using condoms, or abstaining altogether.
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes, combs, razor blades, drinking glasses, and kitchen utensils.
  • Follow a doctor’s advice about traveling or working while living with an infectious disease, as doing so could pass the infection to others.

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