Bacterial Infections

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Bacteria are living things that have only one cell. Under a microscope, they look like balls, rods, or spirals. They are so small that a line of 1,000 could fit across a pencil eraser.

Bacteria that cause disease are broadly classified according to their shape. The four main groups include:

  • Bacilli – shaped like a rod with a length of around 0.03mm. Illnesses such as typhoid and cystitis are caused by bacilli strains.
  • Cocci – shaped like a sphere with a diameter of around 0.001mm. Depending on the sort, cocci bacteria group themselves in a range of ways, such as in pairs, long lines or tight clusters. Examples include Staphylococci (which cause a host of infections including boils) and Gonococci (which cause the sexually transmissible infection gonorrhoea).
  • Spirochaetes – as the name suggests, these bacteria are shaped like tiny spirals. Spirochaetes bacteria are responsible for a range of diseases, including the sexually transmissible infection syphilis.
  • Vibrio – shaped like a comma. The tropical disease cholera, characterised by severe diarrhoea and dehydration, is caused by the vibrio bacteria.

Most bacteria won't hurt you - less than 1 percent of the different types make people sick. Many are helpful. Some bacteria help to digest food, destroy disease-causing cells, and give the body needed vitamins. Bacteria are also used in making healthy foods like yogurt and cheese.

But infectious bacteria can make you ill. They reproduce quickly in your body. Many give off chemicals called toxins, which can damage tissue and make you sick. Examples of bacteria that cause infections include Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and E. coli.

Antibiotics are the usual treatment. When you take antibiotics, follow the directions carefully. Each time you take antibiotics, you increase the chances that bacteria in your body will learn to resist them causing antibiotic resistance. Later, you could get or spread an infection that those antibiotics cannot cure.

List of bacterial infections

Also see Viral infections


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