Hopkins ABX Guide

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections are a common cause of illness in humans. They range from mild annoyance to potentially life-threatening conditions that require immediate medical help. Anyone can contract disease-causing bacteria but some people are more likely to develop an infection and a more severe form of illness.

Treatment of bacterial infections depends on the form of infection and its severity. Most bacterial infections can successfully be treated with antibiotics although the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains of bacteria has caused a major concern in the medical community. If bacteria will become more resistant to the effects of antibiotics, the same infections that are today easily treated may become fatal in the near future.

A Brief Overview of Infectious (Pathogenic) Bacteria

Not all bacteria are dangerous to humans. In fact, fewer than 1 percent of all bacteria can cause an infection. In addition to being harmless, many from the remaining 99 percent are also beneficial for human health and help the immune system fight off the harmful bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause an infection, help digest food, etc.

Bacteria that can cause illness are known as pathogenic bacteria and they can be found just about everywhere including on and in the human body. Under normal circumstances, they don’t cause any health problems but they can sometimes cause a potentially very dangerous infection, usually because of the imbalance between the microorganisms that are a part of the flora in the body. This imbalance can occur due to a variety of reasons including an underlying medical condition, going through some medical procedures/therapies, taking certain medications, etc. At increased risk of bacterial infections are also old adults and young children, and at the same time, develop a more serious form of infection.

Types of Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections can be classified according to the affected parts of the body into respiratory tract infections, skin infections, gastrointestinal infections, urinary tract infections, etc. But they can also be divided into different types according to the type of bacteria that are responsible for the infection into Streptococcal infections, Staphylococcal infections, etc.

A special “category” are infections that are caused by multi-drug resistant strains. They are very difficult to treat because the disease-causing bacteria are resistant to the majority of the most commonly used antibiotics. One of the best examples is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which can cause an infection in many parts of the body and is resistant to many antibiotics.