What are Bacterial Infections?
Bacterial infections are diseases caused by harmful bacteria invading the body.
Bacteria are living organisms with only one cell. Not all of them are harmful; in fact, most are natural residents of the body called “normal flora” and are vital to health.
A bacterial infection can occur in two general ways:
- when harmful strains of bacteria infect and proliferate in the bloodstream or other body tissues, or
- when the usually harmless normal flora multiply extensively in body areas where they are not supposed to be. For example, the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which are normal residents of the skin, can harm one’s health by causing a blood infection when they enter the bloodstream through a cut or wound in the skin.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bacterial Infections?
The signs that one is suffering from a bacterial infection vary widely, usually depending on where the infection is located in the body. Fever, though, is considered a general symptom. It is common for the body’s temperature to spike when it attempts to fight infections.
Other signs of diseases caused by bacteria would be more specific to the body area or system affected:
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) – This is a general term for an infection anywhere along the urinary tract, and may involve the urethra, ureters, kidneys, or the bladder.
- Frequent need to urinate
- Pain or burning sensation during urination
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Cramping or pressure in the lower abdomen
Bacterial Gastroenteritis – This is the inflammation of the stomach (gastro) and intestines (entero) caused by bacteria.
- Diarrhea or frequent watery stools (3x/day or more)
- Bloody stools
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Abdominal pain
Bacterial Pneumonia – This is the infection of the lungs caused by bacteria, usually involving a buildup of exudates and inflammatory cells in the lung’s air spaces.
- Cough, usually productive of sputum
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in breathing
- Coughing out of blood
How are Bacterial Infections Treated?
The usual treatment of choice is antibiotics. Antibiotic drugs are either bacteriocidal (kill bacteria) or bacteriostatic (stop bacteria from reproducing). There are many antibiotic classes, each class inhibiting a certain process in the bacteria.
A commonly prescribed antibiotic is amoxicillin. It is commonly prescribed because it is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which means that it is capable of killing a wide variety of bacteria that are the usual causes of commonly-occurring infections. Among the illnesses it is usually prescribed for are:
- Urinary tract infections affecting the urethra, ureters, kidneys, or the bladder
- Lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis
- Nose infections such as sinusitis and nasal vestibulitis
- Throat infections like the common strep throat and tonsillopharyngitis
- Ear infections such as acute otitis media or the swimmer’s ear
It works by inhibiting the bacteria’s ability to form cell walls. Being one-celled organisms, bacteria’s cell walls act as their skin. Without their cell walls, their contents would leak out and unwanted substances from outside can also enter, leading to their destruction.
It is available as a capsule, tablet, liquid suspension, or pediatric drops. It is usually taken three times a day (every 8 hours) or twice a day (every 12 hours). It is strongly advised by medical practitioners to finish off the whole prescription of any antibiotic (usually one week in duration). Stopping the regimen too soon can lead to the bacteria growing stronger and more resistant, making future infections harder to treat.