What actually is an Infection? An eye opener!
What exactly is an infection?
In this Article we shall be discussing infection.
- What is the meaning of infection,
- what are the causes of infection,
- what are the symptoms of infection, etc.
I actually decided to write this because of the abuse I have seen. Almost everyone is always talking about infection. But only a few know exactly what it is.
WHAT IS AN INFECTION?
When microorganisms invade and multiply in any part of your body, we say you have been infected by that organism. This can happen with you producing symptoms. Others can also produce no symptoms.
The emphasis is that there are many different kinds of infections. But most people take infection as one single entity. In fact from observation, the only thing people regard as infection is when they have urinary tract infection from use of dirty toilets or sexually transmitted infections. To many people that’s what infection is. In fact if you tell someone that Malaria is an infection, they may not accept.
All in all, that’s the purpose of this article. It is aimed to achieve this -to enlighten you on what infection actually is. And what infection is not.
In essence, infection is the invasion and multiplication of microorganisms in your body tissues, with or without causing symptoms.
But remember that some microorganisms have our bodies as their homes. So you may ask, is everyone not infected by defaul? The answer is no. You get infection only when an organism is seen where it should not be naturally seen. Or When it multiplies beyond the required quantity. An organism that is naturally seen in the large intestine, becomes an infection if they gain access to the eyes, vagina, nose, throat,etc. An organism that is suppose to be found in the vagina, when found in the throat becomes an infection. That’s it!
Infection is localised. There is no disease on earth called infection. You must qualify it. So you cannot say, I have an infection. No doctor will understand that language. But you say the part of the body that is infected. For example, I have an infection of the hand, I have infection of the urinary tract, I have an infection of the skin, etc.
And each of them have their own medical terminology. But that’s not necessary for now.
So, you can have infection of any part of your body. You can have infection of your nails, and can also have infection of your hairs. From now on, do not say, I have infection. There is nothing like that. It is a general term. But you can say, I have infection of my penis, or I have infection of my vagina. The reason is because each of the body parts have particular types of organisms that will likely be involved. And that determines the drug to be given. I hope this serves to tell you what infection actually is.
SYMPTOMS OF INFECTION
As said ealier, every part of the body has its own symptoms. But when any part o your body is infected, one of the things that happens is inflammation. The inflammation is a defence mechanism mounted by your body against the organism.
What is inflammation? How do we know inflammation is occurring?
There are four (4) cardinal points of inflammation. That is, four things you will see, and you know that inflammation is occurring, they are:
- Redness – the place will turn red/pink. It’s a sign of inflammation.
- Swelling – the place will swell up. That’s a sign that it is inflamed.
- Heat – the temperature of infected areas are usually higher than the rest of the body.
There are general signs of infection. Other symptoms that is seen especially when a major organ is involved are fever, muscle pain, headache, For example, if the eye is involved, you may have eye itching, lacrimation, etc.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF INFECTION
Infections are caused by microorganisms. Microorganisms are organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eyes, except the use of microscopes. They are:
They are the commonest type of microorganisms that infect man. They are every where. They are extracellular. That means they do not need to enter inside the cell before they cause disease. Remember the human body is made up of the:
So the cell is the smallest particle of any human that can perform a function. Bacteria, do not enter the cell to cause mayhem. At the level of system, organ, tissue, bacteria can causes disease. But, there are a few atypical bacteria that are different. They are intracellular. They enter the cell to cause troubles. But they are very few.
Remember that bacteria is plural, bacterium is singular.
Examples of Bacterial infections
- Neisseria gonorrhea that causes gonorrhea
- Treponema pallidum that causes syphilis
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis, causes tuberculosis
- Streptococcus peumoniae, causes pneumonia
- Staphylococcus aureus, causes several infections ranging from skin, to blood infections. This staphylococcus is what you hear in market everyday, that everyone has its cure. It is an innocent organism that also lives as a normal flora on the skin, vagina. So if you go for test and they find staphylococcus, it is normal. Unless it was found in an abnormal number or unusual part of the body. We still talk more about this beautiful staph later.
- Escherischia coli, normal flora of the colon, causes mostly urinary tract infections
- Salmonella typhi, causes enteric fever, what you know as typhoid fever.
DRUGS used in treating bacterial infections are called ANTIBACTERIAL DRUGS OR ANTIBIOTICS.
So, the popular Antibiotics you have been hearing since, are drugs used in treating bacterial infections. They do not treat viruses, they do not treat fungi, nor protozoans, just only bacteria.
Therefore, before you enter pharmacy shop to demand for antibiotics, have you asked yourself what type of infection you have? Have you seen the reason you must need a doctor before heading to the chemist or pharmacy to get drugs. Abusing antibiotics is very dangerous to you.
We will expand on it later.
These ones are intracellular. They must enter the cell before they act. Another feature of viruses is they are inactive outside a living thing. For example, if a virus is on the handle of your door, it is not inactive. If it is on a table, it is not active. It only becomes active and start multiplying when it finds its way inside a living thing like man, goat, frog, bacteria etc.
Examples of viruses are
- Novel-coronavirus 2 (nCov 2) , that causes a disease called covid19
- HIV, causes AIDS. HIV is not the disease, it is the name of the virus.
- Hepatitis B virus, causes hepatitis B infection
- Human papiloma virus, implicated in cervical cancer.
- Herpes simplex virus, causes herpes (genital and oral herpes)
- Hepatitis c virus, causes hepatitis c infection
- Influenza viruses, they cause common cold.
- Rota virus, causes diarrhoea in children
DRUGS for treating viral infections are called Antiviral drugs. They are NOT antibiotics.
Fungi (plural) fungus (singular).
They are extracellular just like bacteri.
- Candida – candida causes candidiasis, the commonest fungal infection. But candida is also a normal flora of mouth, throat, vagina.
- Aspergillus, causes aspergillosis
- Cryptococcus causes Cryptococcosis
DRUGS for treatment of fungal infections are called ANTIFUNGAL DRUGS, not ANTIBIOTICS.
Examples are :
- Entoameba histolytica, causes Amoebiasis
- Plasmodium, cause malaria
- Giardia lamblia causes giardiasis
DRUGS for treating them are called antiprotozoans, like the antimalarials we all know.
There is more to write on infections ,but let me stop here for now. We shall expound more later.
Questions? Use the comment box below.