General Health

The 4 Infections You Need to Be Aware Of (And How to Treat Them)

The four types of microbes that cause illness in people are bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. While these four one-celled or partially living agents have distinguishing differences that we will discuss below, it is important to note that all four types of infection cause similar symptoms when infection is present. Infection is characterized by inflammation, fever, chills, muscle aches, and joint aches. So, how does you distinguish one from the other? In addition, how does the physician or specialist treat each one of these infections? Let’s read more and learn.

Bacterial Infection

Bacterial infections are the first of four that we will discuss. Bacteria are self-sustaining, respiratory, (breathing) one-cell life forms that live on, in and throughout the human body. Hundreds of thousands of specific types live homogenously on your skin, throughout the gastrointenstinal tract and in the urogenital tract. They live within our bodies for good reason: they protect us from illness and from some diseases, rarely causing any problems.

1Figure 1 Bacterial Infection

Sometimes, however, too much of a good thing can be bad. For example, bacteria that are under our armpit are good because they consume our sweat secretions, but bad because they produce volatile fatty acids that turn into gas. That gas smells and is what we call “Body Odor .” [1] This is simply a negative by-product of this bacteria, however what becomes a serious, medical concern is when these bacteria, that normally live outside of an organ like your skin, enters into and through the body, invading the space in which it should not live.

An example here is when you suffer a cut or a wound. The bacteria sitting on the pre-wound’s skin surface now can enter into your body and potentially cause infection. Not every skin breach causes infection, as we have all experienced. But in some cases, a wound that is not kept clean or a person with a compromised and weakened immune system can get ill. The symptoms are redness, hot to the touch, pain at site, and sometimes fever, chills, muscle aches, and an overall feeling of malaise.

In order to properly treat serious bacterial infections, you first must determine the type, depth and the severity of the infection. Your doctor typically will swab any drainage from the site and send it off for laboratory culture to identify the specific bacterial type. S/he then prescribes the correct antibiotic that will eradicate the bacteria, returning your body to a state of health. In some cases, the antibiotic will be delivered orally and in more serious cases, intravenously (through an I.V.). This type of antibiotic prescribing is the most prudent because the physician has specific information and can match the most useful antibiotic to the bacteria. Penicillin, tetracycline, sulfa, and ciprofloxin are typical antibiotics prescribed for bacterial infections.

Fungal Infections

The second type of infection is a fungal infection. Living in a similar manner to bacteria, we all have fungi that live in and on the body sites. Generally, they are not a problem unless one of two conditions is present:

  1. Someone has a compromised or weakened immune system (called immunocompromised;)
  2. A blockage exists where it should not.

2Figure 2 Fungal Infection

When kept in delicate balance, fungi do not cause illness. However, when out of balance, infection can occur. Someone who has AIDS, for example, might develop pneumonia because the fungi that live homeostatically inside

the lungs can overgrow, impair air exchange in the lung, and cause florid pneumonia. Because this person’s system is compromised, it is unable to maintain that healthy balance.

Recurrent sinus infections with bacteria or fungi are often the result of pendulous blocking polyps or allergy provoking mucosal swelling which block the normal sinus drainage into the stomach of infectious debris.

Again, treatment for these types of fungal infections must be cultured and then treated with the proper agent. Fluconizole and Nystatin are common antifungal medicines.

Parasitic Infections

The third type of infection is a parasitic infection. This is where the parasite uses your body and is a life form itself. It can live on its own and/or “rent”space in your body. A common parasite is Giardia Lambia and it is usually found in fresh water systems such as lakes and rivers. Ingestion of infected water is the primary way this parasite infects humans. Over 50% of our lakes, river streams and creeks are infected with Girardia Lambia and it is even finding its way into urban areas’ drinking water.[2] This parasite is commonly found in the gastrointestinal tracts of deer and bears and it finds its way into the water through fecal contamination.

3Figure 3 Giaradia Lambia parasite

Another example of a parasite is Malaria. Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite transmitted by infected mosquitoes. In 2013 an estimated 198 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide and 500,000 people died, mostly children in the African Region. [3]

Parasites are treated with anti-parasitics. Examples here are oral pills like Metronidazole (Flagyl), which is the most commonly used antibiotic for a giardia infection, and I.V. Quinine, which is one of several treatments available for Malaria.

Viral Infections

The fourth type of infection is a virus. Viruses are different than all the others mentioned thus far because they require a life form in order to reproduce themselves. In essence, they use your body’s machinery in order to survive. Examples here include the common cold, Chicken Pox and Herpes. What is interesting about viruses is how they work: they take your own DNA and make template of your body’s cells. They then take that DNA template and form RNA viral genes. These genes use the cellular machinery to make hundreds of thousands of protein and carbohydrate capsules before inserting the RNA back in this shell and then breaking and killing the cell to move on to the next. This is how it grows and this is why it spreads.

4

Treatments here are self-limiting, usually requiring nothing but fluids and rest in order to get better. Viruses do cause serious diseases, however, in humans such as AIDS, Influenza pneumonia, and Hepatitis. For these and others, antiviral agents are the remedy. Acyclovir and Oseltamivir are two common, antiviral medicines.

In short, infections of all kinds typically present in the same fashion with similar symptoms: fever, chills, muscle aches, and general malaise. It is only through thorough medical evaluation that one can determine the underlying problem and thus, its treatment. It is important that you have a good doctor who you trust and who has extensive experience. It is in this way that he or she can get rid of what’s bugging you.

 Sources

[1] Cheryl Power, senior lecturer in microbiology at the University of Melbourne, Body and Soul.

[2] Content copyright 2016. HUMAWORM

[3] CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC 24/7: Saving Lives. Protecting People.

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Bruce Ruben, MD
Dr. Bruce Ruben, internationally known as “The Wound Doc,” is the Founder and Medical Director of Encompass HealthCare and Wound Medicine. Board certified in Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease, and Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, Ruben pioneered outpatient IV therapy. Follow him on Twitter at @EncompassCareMI and on his popular Facebook page at /EncompassHealthCare.
Bruce Ruben, MD

@EncompassCareMI

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Bruce Ruben, MD

Bruce Ruben, MD

Dr. Bruce Ruben, internationally known as “The Wound Doc,” is the Founder and Medical Director of Encompass HealthCare and Wound Medicine. Board certified in Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease, and Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, Ruben pioneered outpatient IV therapy. Follow him on Twitter at @EncompassCareMI and on his popular Facebook page at /EncompassHealthCare.

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