Infections may be caused by bacteria , viruses , fungi , and parasites. The pathogen that causes the disease may be exogenous acquired from an external source; environmental, animal or other people, e. Influenza or endogenous from normal flora e. The site at which a microbe enters the body is referred to as the portal of entry.
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There are various ways in which disease can be transmitted between individuals. These include: . Like other pathogens, viruses use these methods of transmission to enter the body, but viruses differ in that they must also enter into the host's actual cells. Once the virus has gained access to the host's cells, the virus' genetic material RNA or DNA must be introduced to the cell.
Replication between viruses is greatly varied and depends on the type of genes involved in them. The mechanisms for infection, proliferation, and persistence of a virus in cells of the host are crucial for its survival. For example, some diseases such as measles employ a strategy whereby it must spread to a series of hosts. In these forms of viral infection, the illness is often treated by the body's own immune response , and therefore the virus is required to disperse to new hosts before it is destroyed by immunological resistance or host death.
Identification of an infectious agent for a minor illness can be as simple as clinical presentation; such as gastrointestinal disease and skin infections. In order to make an educated estimate as to which microbe could be causing the disease, epidemiological factors need to be considered; such as the patient's likelihood of exposure to the suspected organism and the presence and prevalence of a microbial strain in a community.
Diagnosis of infectious disease is nearly always initiated by consulting the patient's medical history and conducting a physical examination. More detailed identification techniques involve microbial culture , microscopy , biochemical tests and genotyping.
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Microbiological culture is the primary method used for isolating infectious disease for study in the laboratory. Tissue or fluid samples are tested for the presence of a specific pathogen , which is determined by growth in a selective or differential medium. The 3 main types of media used for testing are: . Culture techniques will often use a microscopic examination to help in the identification of the microbe. Instruments such as compound light microscopes can be used to assess critical aspects of the organism.
This can be performed immediately after the sample is taken from the patient and is used in conjunction with biochemical staining techniques, allowing for resolution of cellular features. Electron microscopes and fluorescence microscopes are also used for observing microbes in greater detail for research. Fast and relatively simple biochemical tests can be used to identify infectious agents.
For bacterial identification, the use of metabolic or enzymatic characteristics are common due to their ability to ferment carbohydrates in patterns characteristic of their genus and species.
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Acids, alcohols and gases are usually detected in these tests when bacteria are grown in selective liquid or solid media , as mentioned above. In order to perform these tests en masse, automated machines are used. These machines perform multiple biochemical tests simultaneously, using cards with several wells containing different dehydrated chemicals.
The microbe of interest will react with each chemical in a specific way, aiding in its identification. Serological methods are highly sensitive, specific and often extremely rapid laboratory tests used to identify different types of microorganisms. The tests are based upon the ability of an antibody to bind specifically to an antigen.
The antigen usually a protein or carbohydrate made by an infectious agent is bound by the antibody, allowing this type of test to be used for organisms other than bacteria. This binding then sets off a chain of events that can be easily and definitively observed, depending on the test.
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More complex serological techniques are known as immunoassays. Using a similar basis as described above, immunoassays can detect or measure antigens from either infectious agents or the proteins generated by an infected host in response to the infection. Polymerase chain reaction PCR assays are the most commonly used molecular technique to detect and study microbes.
For instance, traditional PCR techniques require the use of gel electrophoresis to visualize amplified DNA molecules after the reaction has finished. Once an infection has been diagnosed and identified, suitable treatment options must be assessed by the physician and consulting medical microbiologists. Some infections can be dealt with by the body's own immune system , but more serious infections are treated with antimicrobial drugs.
Bacterial infections are treated with antibacterials often called antibiotics whereas fungal and viral infections are treated with antifungals and antivirals respectively. A broad class of drugs known as antiparasitics are used to treat parasitic diseases.
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