What are bacterial diseases?

Bacterial diseases include any type of illness caused by bacteria. Bacteria are a type of microorganism, which are tiny forms of life that can only be seen with a microscope. Other types of microorganisms include viruses, some fungi, and some parasites.

Millions of bacteria normally live on the skin, in the intestines, and on the genitalia. The vast majority of bacteria do not cause disease, and many bacteria are actually helpful and even necessary for good health. These bacteria are sometimes referred to as “good bacteria” or “healthy bacteria.”

Harmful bacteria that cause bacterial infections and disease are called pathogenic bacteria. Bacterial diseases occur when pathogenic bacteria get into the body and begin to reproduce and crowd out healthy bacteria, or to grow in tissues that are normally sterile. Harmful bacteria may also emit toxins that damage the body. Common pathogenic bacteria and the types of bacterial diseases they cause include:

  • Escherichia coli and Salmonella cause food poisoning.

  • Helicobacter pylori cause gastritis and ulcers.

  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae causes the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea.  

  • Neisseria meningitidis causes meningitis.

  • Staphylococcus aureus causes a variety of infections in the body, including boils, cellulitis, abscesses, wound infections, toxic shock syndrome, pneumonia, and food poisoning.

  • Streptococcal bacteria cause a variety of infections in the body, including pneumonia, meningitis, ear infections, and strep throat.

Bacterial diseases are contagious and can result in many serious or life-threatening complications, such as blood poisoning (bacteremia), kidney failure, and toxic shock syndrome.

Seek prompt medical care if you suspect that you have a bacterial disease. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have critical symptoms of a bacterial disease, such as high fever, lethargy or unresponsiveness.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of bacterial diseases?

Symptoms of bacterial diseases vary depending on the type of bacterial infection, the area of the body that is infected, and other factors, such as the patient’s age and health history. The symptoms of bacterial diseases can also resemble symptoms of other diseases, such as colitis, influenza, and viral infections. The classic symptom of a bacterial infection is a fever, although not all people... Read more about bacterial diseasessymptoms

CAUSES

What causes bacterial diseases?

Bacterial diseases are caused by harmful bacteria (pathogenic bacteria). The vast majority of bacteria do not cause disease, and many bacteria are actually helpful and even necessary for good health. Bacterial diseases occur when pathogenic bacteria get into an area of the body that is normally sterile, such as the bladder, or when they crowd out the helpful bacteria in places such as the intes... Read more about bacterial diseasescauses

TREATMENTS

How are bacterial diseases treated?

Bacterial diseases are treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics work by killing the harmful bacteria or by stopping them from reproducing and spreading. Different types of antibiotics are effective for treating specific types of bacteria. Antibiotics may be given orally, intravenously, or by intramuscular injection, depending on the type a... Read more about bacterial diseasestreatments

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases, Cold and Flu


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